5 arrests, 1 injury reported at LA neo-Nazi rally and counter-protest

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Eric Zassenhaus/KPCC

Police in riot gear formed a line in front of a crowd of about 500 people gathered south of City Hall today to protest a white supremacist rally. One person was beat by counterprotesters as of Saturday afternoon.

A raucous neo-Nazi rally and counter-protest yesterday outside City Hall in downtown Los Angeles resulted in five arrests of rock- and egg-throwing counter-protesters and at least one injury to a white supremacist, but no major problems, police said.

About 50 members of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement attempted to stage a permitted rally on the south lawn of City Hall at 12:30 p.m., where they called for all nonwhites to be removed from America's southwest, but they were outnumbered and shouted down by about 500 counter-protestors, police said.

The two groups were separated by police in riot gear and yellow tape, and both the police and white supremacists were pelted with rocks, bottles, eggs and other items by the counter-protesters.

One skinhead was injured when counter-protestors struck him with a stick, causing abrasions to his head and legs, said Los Angeles Police Detective Gus Villanueva.

The Los Angeles Times reported that another man who had a sign about religion with a swastika was attacked by a group of people on Spring Street between First and Second.

During the rally, one handcuffed counter-protester was seated on a concrete planter in front of the Police Administration Building, arrested by an undercover officer who caught her throwing eggs at the neo-Nazis.

A 32-year-old Cudahy man and a 20-year-old Los Angeles man, both Hispanic, were charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly throwing rocks.

A white 17-year-old Los Angeles male, 18-year-old black female from Los Angeles and 16-year-old female Hispanic were arrested on misdemeanors for allegedly throwing eggs.

Those arrested did not identify themselves as being affiliated with any organized group.

Villanueva said all those arrested were counter-protestors.

Police could not immediately give an estimate of the cost of their presence at the event.

Officers escorted the neo-Nazis to and from their rally, and as the demonstration got under way, police in riot gear formed a line in front of the crowd to protest the white supremacist rally.

The counter-protesters gathered on the sidewalk, many carrying signs and chanting slogans in English and Spanish, about 30 minutes before the neo-Nazi rally was scheduled to begin.

Some of the counter-protesters were apparently antagonized by a man with Nazi skin tattoos. He was moved down the street by an angry mob of protestors, who beat him with signs, causing him to bleed from the head.

Police formed a wedge and took the man away, and no arrests were made at that time.

The neo-Nazis carried a variety of flags -- American, Confederate and Nazi -- but their words were lost amidst catcalls and chants from the surrounding and much larger, louder crowd, including ``racists go home'' and ``stop the Nazis''.

``It's just one group of racists protesting another group of racists,'' an officer said.

Police citywide were on tactical alert in case wide-scale trouble broke out.

The officers faced the counter-protesters with hands readied on batons.

``You're facing the wrong way, the hate's on that side,'' said one man in the middle of a restive crowd of organized demonstrators, curious bystanders and a few people who painted slogans on their bodies.

When the rally ended after 2:30 p.m., police escorted the white supremacists to a parking lot to get in their vehicles, but one car failed to start and some counter-demonstrators began throwing rocks and bottles, hitting vehicles and breaking glass, The Times reported.

The LAPD ordered the crowd to disperse and reopened the streets.

Commander David Doan told The Times that the LAPD's goal was to make sure that everyone was allowed to exercise free speech while avoiding the use of force by officers.

``There was a tremendous amount of restraint shown by our officers," he said. ``We allowed both sides to exercise their First Amendment rights."

Doan told the newspaper the situation was stressful for LAPD officers.

``We took some rocks and bottles when they arrived and we took some again when the car had some trouble starting," he said.

The people injured by counter-protesters were treated and released, Doan said.

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