KALAMAZOO – With a police force of over 400 officers patrolling the city, Kalamazoo survived a rally organized by white supremacist radio show host Hal Turner with no property damage, no mass civil disobedience and only four arrests.
Officers from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team (KVET), Kalamazoo Township Police Department, Kalamazoo Sheriff’s Department and the Michigan State Police were on hand to quell any problems should they arise, Sgt. Joe Taylor, public information officer for the KDPS, said.
Taylor credits the success of the event to the cooperation of the media leading up to it. “I’d like to commend the media for agreeing not to have major pre-event coverage. It helped to keep the event under control,” Taylor said.
Media outlets have denied they made any such agreements with police.
Police reported only four arrests associated with the event. Two of the arrests were made in the rally area, while two others were made in Bronson Park following the rally. One man was arrested for allegedly carrying a double-edged knife and resisting arrest, both felonies. A second man was arrested for a misdemeanor – assaulting a police service animal charge – for allegedly kicking a sheriff’s horse. The accused man later told the Kalamazoo Gazette he kicked the animal because the officer mounted atop it had his hair.
The two arrests in Bronson Park were misdemeanor arrests of two young women. Both were charged under a city ordinance for allegedly interfering with police officers. Both women were arrested after stepping up on a public band shell in the park.
Before Turner and his entourage of about 40 people arrived from a remote location and under heavy police escort, officers encircled the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and Courts Building on Crosstown Parkway. The parking lot of the municipal building had been fenced in with multiple layers of fencing, creating a secure speaking location for Turner, with areas for Turner’s supporters and areas for opponents. Everyone entering the area was subject to search, including walk-through metal detectors and hand-held metal detectors.
Officers stood at the ready, riot helmets either on their heads or on the ground beside them, and gas masks sheathed in carrying cases on their legs. A Michigan State Police helicopter flew over the city, monitoring crowds and directing police to larger than usual gatherings in order to prevent problems before they happened.
As police were preparing for the event and media were checking in, Bill White and Dan Carlson from the National Socialist Workers Party, a radical off-shoot of the National Socialist Movement (Nazis) stood quietly under a tree across the street from the rally location, distributing literature. They were dressed in black shirts, khaki pants and wearing red swastika armbands. White was there to protest Turner and his entourage, and has called Turner a traitor to his movement on his Web site.
While White and Carlson were standing quietly near the media pool, a contingent of eight members of the National Socialist Movement (Nazis) arrived in NSM T-shirts and T-shirts emblazoned with swastikas. With them was an elderly man, dressed in a simple plaid shirt and pants. The group walked down Crosstown Parkway to the entrance area to the rally, and entered to wait for Turner.
As Turner and his entourage were being escorted to the rally location on city buses, a crowd of about 250 people marched from Bronson Park to the KDPS building. As they marched, they chanted, drummed on plastic five-gallon buckets and made noise with noise makers and whistles. They carried signs reading “Hate Speech=Terrorism,” “Racists not welcome,” and “Hate Speech is not Free Speech.” Many wore handkerchiefs over their faces, a common preparation activists take when they fear they will be tear gassed.
The group promptly surrounded White and Carlson, screaming in their faces, while White and Carlson screamed back “Sieg Heil!” and gave the Nazi salute. As this happened, the group from NSM came out of the rally area, and confronted protestors. Officers on horse back moved in quickly to separate the two groups and while the NSM saluted and chanted “Sieg Heil!” counter protestors chanted “Hey, hey, the KKK has got to go!”
White has written he was injured when an officer’s horse stepped on his ankle during this confrontation, however it could not be independently verified.
As tension grew, more officers moved in, moving NSM members and White back to the entrance to the rally, creating a double line of police. Protestors, upon discovering they could not enter the rally area with their bags, signs or other items, decided instead to stay outside the fenced in area. They chanted, made noise and attempted to prevent others from hearing the speakers who joined Turner in the lot.
About 40 people arrived with Turner, while an additional 20 or so supporters, including the eight NSM members, were there. An additional 15 opponents of Turner entered the fenced in portion. Some minorities entered into the supporters’ area, setting off a quick movement by officers in riot gear to create a separation between the two groups, and a black command officer was sent in to talk with the minority protestors and escort them out of the supporter area.
Joining Hal Turner at the microphone were Randy Grey, a white supremacist based in Michigan, Pastor James Wickstrom, a Christian Identity pastor in eastern Michigan, and Alex Linder, publisher of the Nazi news web site Vanguard News. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project Director Mark Potok told BTL in July that Turner, Wickstrom and Linder were “the worst of the worst,” white supremacist leaders in America today.
Turner has posted the home addresses of judges and politicians he disagrees with, encouraging listeners to his radio show to “talk to them.” Linder was arrested in a Knoxville, Tenn. rally for assaulting a police officer and Wickstrom’s rhetoric has been linked to hate crimes in Michigan.
White has been listed as one of the top 40 white supremacy activists to watch by the SPLC.