I am in Lansing Michigan outside the state
capital on 22 APR 06, over the weekend on a business trip from
I am visiting my father who lives in Lansing.
We plan to go to the Oldsmobile museum, but something
interesting brews on Michigan Avenue. The Nazis from Minnesota
have come to town.
More than a few people aren't happy with this.
800 people appear in all to include 70 Nazis, a handful of
Nazi supporters, 200 bystanders, and about 500
counter-protesters. The mission of the counter-protesters is
to make enough noise to drown out the rhetoric of the Nazis.
After violence that occurred in Florida and
Ohio over Nazi appearances, the police have come to Lansing in force. It
is an impressive security set up put together by people who know their stuff.
500 police officers, to include the Lansing police, State police,
police from surrounding communities, and apparently, SWAT members,
allow counter-protesters to get close enough to satisfy their need
to disrupt the Nazis, yet keep them far enough away to maintain
control. I am at a security checkpoint that screens people for
weapons before they enter the protest area.
The police have also brought out the cavalry.
Men on horseback have served as crowd control since the dawn of
recorded history. Their presence pacifies the
crowd at this gate.
Nazis aren't popular in Lansing, Michigan.
They stand isolated on the state capital steps. To me, they look like cast
members from The Producers.
The police mean business. A thin blue line
of police officers, armed with batons, stand at the ready between
the handful of Nazi supporters and the rest of the crowd. An
officer in command instructs the crowd to stay back from this line.
A lot of people gather in the protest area set
aside for those against the Nazis.
The crowd is a little light in the area set aside
for the Nazi supporters. More police officers stand in the
area protecting the Nazi supporters than do Nazi supporters.
10 Minutes before the schedule calls for demonstration
to end, the thin blue line gets a little thicker. The police
running the show does so with conductor like
precision. Police also man the rooftops and watch the crowd
At precisely 4:00, the Nazis clear the state
capital steps. The police demand that the crowd leave the area
immediately. The crowd generally listens, with a couple of
A voice of authority bellows from the police
station. They mean what they say. It is time to go.
We walk back to the parking garage. Two
runners jostle us, Nazi supporters, and then a counter-protester crowd follows after them.
Counter-protesters hurl bottles and rocks at Nazi
A group of counter-protesters catches, punches,
and kicks an apparent Nazi supporter. One of them yells
that I have a camera. I head up to the next level of the
Additional cameras arrive. This seems to
temper the mob. The target of their attack makes his escape.
The motorcycle police arrive. Sirens blare.
Police video also arrives. Video serves to control
the crowd here. The perpetrators of the violence look like
local students. They have something to lose if caught and prosecuted.
The police know this and use it to their advantage...
...because an assault with weapons that leaves
injuries like these is a felony in this country. Police come up to escort this individual out.
The cavalry arrives to clear the rest of the
The SWAT team pushes through the parking garage
tells us it is time to go.
This directive forces us into the middle of a counter-protester march.
It's hard to argue with the slogans on the signs
we make our way through the crowd. People within this crowd spit on our car.
They smash the window of a police patrol car.
That made me think.
I am in the middle of America with people who,
though they have never been personally harmed by the events of 60 and 70
years ago, are well trained by their culture to hate people they
identify as Nazis. I share the view about the deplorability of Nazi ideals.
500 police officers on site, all well armed and trained, cannot keep
the counter-protesters from putting two Nazi supporters in the
hospital and significantly wounding a third.
So what if, instead of deploying 500 police
officers, Lansing could send just 2, 3 or even 10 police officers to
keep that peace? What if, instead of the crowd being mostly
American, with something to lose, and pre-screened for weapons, the
crowd is a displaced people, with nothing to lose, well supplied
with arms, with an intent to kill?
For every person a given police officer had to
watch in this crowd in Lansing, the American soldier abroad watches
500. Now imagine asking the counter-protesters to start a
dialog with the Nazis so the two can live together in peace and the
police can go home.