Monday, November 7, 2011

POMONA - More than 50 members of the National Socialist Movement stepped onto the south side of Mission Boulevard on Saturday afternoon and walked east toward City Hall.

As the members of the neo-Nazi group approached City Hall, more than 300 counter-protesters moved toward the edge of the north sidewalk of the boulevard.

As the neo-Nazi group walked, some members called out: "Out immigrants! Out illegals!"

No sooner had members of the group positioned themselves in front of City Hall than anti-Nazi protesters spilled onto the street shouting names at the group.

A few counter-protesters were flinging orange traffic cones that flew past members of law enforcement but never reached the neo-Nazis.

For about an hour members of the neo-Nazi group gave speeches, periodically hurling insults at counter-protesters, who lobbed insults back.

"Everybody knows immigration is wrong," said Jeff Schoep, commander with the National Socialist Movement.

During what the group characterized as a rally, Schoep said he understood there is an effort to repeal the Dream Act, a pair of Assembly bills Gov. Jerry Brown signed recently that give illegal immigrants access to some financial resources, including state aid, to

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attend college.

Schoep said Americans shouldn't pay for illegal immigrants' education.

"The American dream is not for illegals. It's for white America," he said.

After speaking to the group, Schoep described the group as a white civil-rights organization that is nonviolent and not a hate group.

Schoep, who heads the Detroit-based group, attributed the nation's economic problems to illegal immigrants.

"They're taking away our jobs," he said.

Pomona was chosen as the site of the rally because "Pomona is a sanctuary city," he said, but added that the group had been in other cities, including Claremont, Phoenix, Los Angeles.

As the rally continued outside City Hall, Jason Hiecke, who identified himself as chief of staff for the neo-Nazi group, shouted, "Get the hell out!"

Counter-protesters responded with a collective "Booooo!"

"Every single one of you out there has an uncle or a brother in prison," he said.

"Nazis go home," people shouted back.

Among the counter-protesters was a woman who held a sign that read, "When did your family immigrate?"

Bun Naa Ngin of Pomona was among some people who stumbled onto the rally and counter-protest.

"This is not what America is about. America is where people come together and become one," Ngin said.

To Ngin the presence of the neo-Nazi members "seems like a cry for help and recruitment of people like them, with that mind-set."

Maria Martinez of Pomona said she was angry and offended to have a group come from outside the city and make her feel unsafe, angry and offended all at once.

"We don't want them here," Martinez said. "We all have the right to live whereever we want."

"I'm not happy about this," Martinez said. "We are all equal. Mexicans, whites, African American - we're all human."

Russell Johnson, a Pomona resident who is a student at Mt. San Antonio College, said he decided to go to Mission Boulevard to see what both sides had to say.

What he found was "there's a lot of hatred still," he said.

"It's time they grow up," Johnson said about the neo-Nazi group. "It's not the 1950s any more."

Tempers became heated among counter-protesters and shouting matches broke out among them momentarily.

"Go over to that side," one man shouted to another who appeared to have views in line with those of the neo-Nazis.

Members of the National Socialist Movement contacted the Pomona Police Department about two months ago about having an event in the city, said Mark Gluba, assistant to the city manager.

No permit was required for the event, Gluba said.

Law enforcement from the Pomona Police Department along with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, including about a dozen deputies on horseback, and officers from various agencies in the region were present.

"The law enforcement presence is solely to ensure public safety and to ensure that the First Amendment and constitutional rights of all parties are protected," Gluba said.

No arrests and no injuries were reported.

Police closed Mission to traffic between Garey and Park avenues after counter-protesters went into the street but it reopened once the rally ended.

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