FAQs - What to Do When...


Organized White Supremacists Announce a Rally:


The Nazis are Coming! The Nazis are Coming!

Hate Groups and Community Responses  
by Chip Berlet  

1. Do something  
2. Free speech meets moral outrage  
3. That word "extremism"  
4. Nonviolent direct confrontation  
5. Separate rally or program? 
6. Educational teaching moments  
7. Fundraising  

Do something

There are a number of Human Relations groups that suggest that rallies and marches by hate groups be ignored. I have never understood why this is a useful concept. Rallies, marches, speaking events, literature distribution, and vandalism are all forms of outreach and recruitment. If we do nothing, our silence can be seen as consent, especially by young people and the alienated of all ages. Stand up. Do something. History judges you.  

Free speech meets moral outrage

I understand the sentiment that there should be "no free speech for fascists," and that in Europe, Canada, and other places there are laws against inciting hate. When a hate group schedules an event, however, I find that often the slogan "no free speech for fascists," shifts the focus to the role of the state in protecting the "free speech for fascists," when it is morally and politically more appropriate to focus on systems of oppression that are highlighted by hate groups. In some instances this leads to unnecessary or intentionally provoked confrontations with the police and other law enforcement authorities, which puts counter demonstrators at risk.  

This latter situation narrows the breadth of possible anti-oppression coalitions. Be aware that some people, especially those with family caretaking responsibility or medical issues, need to avoid arrest. Find ways for them to participate in your demonstrations with a reduced level of risk.  

Nonviolent direct confrontation  

Some people just feel a need to confront hate groups directly. As long as this is non-violent, it can be a powerful challenge.  

Many years ago I was at a White supremacist rally in Chicago staged by a neonazi group in full uniformed regalia. I was taking photographs and after a time I saw an older man just standing in silence facing the stage. I finally walked up to him, excused myself, and asked what he was doing there. He looked at me, said he was Jewish, lived in the neighborhood, and was there to bear silent witness on behalf of those murdered during the Nazi genocide. It is difficult to imagine a satisfactory objection.  

I do not think attacking the supremacist group members or rushing the stage, or battling with the police are useful tactics. In addition to being macho nonsense, this shifts attention to the violence, rather than the issue of bigotry.

Ridicule can be a powerful tool, and a brilliant example was when a group of counter demonstrators dressed as clown carried piles of signs to a White Power rally in Knoxville, Tennesse. This is from an Indymedia report:  

“White Power!” the Nazi’s shouted,

“White Flour?” the clowns yelled back running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelt “White Flour”.  

“White Power!” the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more,

“White flowers?” the clowns cheers and threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.  


Separate rally or program?

A rally or program away from the site of the hate group activity can involve a broad range of the community. I do not think it is appropriate for sponsors of such offsite events to argue that any form of direct confrontation is appropriate.  

Offsite events are a good moment to reach out across boundaries of race, class, and gender. Leaders of various faith traditions and leaders of various human rights groups can bring in a variety of constituencies. Reach out to leaders in the business community and labor unions.  

Educational teaching moments  

Every supremacist group activity is a teaching opportunity. Student and community activists can respond quickly by setting up websites and list servers to help pull together a variety of responses. These should be encouraged to link to educational materials explaining how hate group activity is related to larger issues of the systems, structures, and institutions in the larger society.

Make sure to contact the mass media, and pay special attention to ways the alternative media can be made a partner in organizing  


One clever technique is to stage a fundraising benefit for some organization or individual in a way that refutes the targets of the supremacist group. It works by soliciting pledges for a certain amount for each minute the hate group event lasts. The more they rant, the more money they are raising for their opponents.  

Frederick Clarkson reported on just such a technique:  

…there was widespread community response to the invasion of Rev. Fred Phelps and his followers to several towns in eastern MA on Sunday and Monday. The Lowell Sun has a story on the protests and counter protests in Dracut and Bedford on Monday titled: "Signs of tolerance meet signs of hate"

The Sun also reported on the successful efforts of blogger Lynne Lupien "to beat the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church's anti-gay group at its own game netted $606" for MA gay rights organizations.

"...Lupien's new Web blog, www.leftinlowell.com, encouraged those opposing the Westboro group and its leader, the Rev. Fred Phelps, to pledge whatever they pleased for each minute the Phelps group protested locally.

"So between the hour and a half they were at the Tsongas Arena Sunday and the half-hour they were in Dracut Monday, we raised the money," said Lupien, a local activist and member of Greater Lowell for Peace and Justice. It worked out to $5.05 per each minute..."  


Urgent Care

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Take it Seriously

Organized White Supremacists Announce a Rally:

The Nazis are Coming! The Nazis are Coming!

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