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Jewish, civil rights groups to protest at neo-Nazi march near White House

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Washington Jewish Week

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 — Coming on the heels of a number of recent hate crimes across the country, the planned Washington march of a neo-Nazi group calling itself the American Nationalist Party is spurring multiple responses by area groups.

Activities include an effort to get the city to revoke the group’s permit for the march; peaceful vigils; and a project in which the neo-Nazi group will indirectly aid the families of hate-crime victims.

The American Nationalist Party, previously known as Knights of Freedom, has obtained a police permit to march from Edward R. Murrow Park, at 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, to Lafayette Square, across from the White House, from 3-6 p.m. on Saturday.

The U.S. Park Police expects about 300 people to participate in the march and about 500 counterdemonstrators to gather in different places around the city.

Between 500 and 600 officers are expected to be on duty to protect against the kind of violence and confrontations that have marked similar demonstrations in the past. In 1990, a Ku Klux Klan march to the U.S. Capitol resulted in more than 30 arrests, and a 1982 Klan rally ended with rioting and looting by some of those who were demonstrating against it.

The founder of the group is a 20-year-old South Carolina college student who has legally changed his name to Davis Wolfgang Hawke to “pay tribute” to his “long line of English relatives,” according to his personal statement on the group’s Website. His original name was Andrew Greenbaum, but Hawke claims to have no Jewish bloodlines.

“My stepfather, Hyman Greenbaum (a one-quarter Jew), is incorrectly listed on my birth certificate,” says the statement. In fact, Hawke claims, his mother had an affair with an unknown man of German descent who is Hawke’s biological father.

On his Web site statement, Hawke says the “purpose of my life, and the reason for the existence of this party, is to take back what the liberals and the Jewish ruling elite have swindled from us — White America and its proud history.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the American Nationalist Party, while being run out of Hawke’s college dorm room, has used its Web site to present itself as a rapidly growing organization, although there has been no evidence that the group has a significant off-line presence. The group has launched the “White Pride News Service,” which claims to send e-mail newsletters and updates about the group to “1,600 white racialists in 43 countries.”

After the bombings of three synagogues and the murder of a gay couple in California, and the shootings of minorities in the Midwest during the Fourth of July weekend, many in the Washington area feel that a march through the nation’s capital by an organization with a hate-filled ideology cannot be ignored.

The Anti-Defamation League is sponsoring a program called Project Lemonade, which will use the march to raise money for the victims of hate crimes, or “turn a bitter thing sweet,” according to ADL regional director David Friedman.

Along with more than a dozen co-sponsoring organizations so far — from the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington to the Asian-Pacific American Bar Association — the ADL will ask individuals, businesses and other groups to pledge a few cents for every minute that the Nationalist demonstrates in Washington. All the money raised will be given to the families of Ricky Byrdsong and Won-Joon Yoon, the two men murdered, allegedly by World Church of the Creator adherent Benjamin Smith earlier this month. The ADL also will send an acknowledgment of the donation to the American Nationalist Party.

Friedman believes that Project Lemonade is a “nonviolent, peaceful way to express outrage” at the ANP and what they represent. Friedman is discouraging counterdemonstrations because they have the potential of leading to confrontations and violence, and only give hate groups more media attention than they deserve.

Other local organizations, though, are organizing more visible responses. A peaceful vigil from 2-4 p.m. in front of the Lincoln Memorial, far removed from the American Nationalist Party march, is being set up by the local chapters of the American Jewish Committee and the National Conference for Community and Justice, along with the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, the Latino Civil Rights Center and Jews United for Justice.

David Bernstein, regional director of the AJCommittee, said that the event will be an affirmation of “democracy, community and respect,” and he hopes it will attract representatives of every ethnic, racial and religious group in the area.

Washington Mayor Anthony Williams plans to address the counter-rally, along with various community and civil rights leaders and musicians such as Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary fame.

Elsewhere on the Mall, the People’s Movement for Racial Healing, Diversity and Justice — a project of the African American Holiday Association — is holding Unity in Diversity Day from noon to 6 p.m. Ayo Handy-Clary, founder and director of the group, said her organization’s event was planned over a year ago, and she believes the American Nationalist Party picked Aug. 7 in order to “rain on our parade.”

One other group, while denying that it wants confrontation or violence, plans to directly challenge the American Nationalist Party. Bruce Cooley, a coordinator of D.C. United to Stop the Nazis, said his group will hold a rally in Murrow Park, where the American Nationalist Party will begin its march, from noon-2 p.m.

Then, Cooley said, members of his group will “line the periphery” of the demonstration with signs and chanting.

While “committed to a peaceful counterdemonstration,” Cooley said his organization is concerned about violence. Therefore, his group is training some people as “peacekeepers,” who will make sure their members are “controlled” and “respond to provocations in a peaceful but effective way.” (JTA correspondent Daniel Kurtzman in Washington contributed to this report.)

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