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'White rights' group planning rally in April; Rome police confirm paperwork for a permit

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A Michigan neo-Nazi group is planning a “white rights” rally in downtown Rome this April.

The National Socialist Movement has scheduled its annual meeting for Georgia, with a public rally set for April 23. The Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the NSM as an “extremist organization,” calling it the largest and most prominent neo-Nazi group in the United States.

Butch Urban, chief of staff for NSM Commander Jeff Schoep, said members of other groups have also signed up to attend the gathering, which will culminate in an afternoon rally in front of City Hall.

“They normally last about two hours, but this could be a little longer because of all the different groups,” Urban said. “It’s open to all white-minded people.”

Rome Police Maj. Debbie Burnett confirmed that the NSM has requested and received an application for a permit. She said any group — regardless of political affiliation — would be approved, as long as they comply with the city ordinance.

“As long as they’re peaceful, don’t do anything illegal and don’t incite a riot, we do approve it,” she said. “We do monitor for safety and compliance.”

Urban said the NSM conducts two major rallies outside Michigan each year. They picked Rome, he said, because of a successful gathering in Atlanta a few years ago.

“We have a lot of members in the southeast this year,” he said.

The participating groups he named, however, are mainly based in the north: Aryan Nations, in Chillicothe, Ohio; Texas Rebel Knights; Aryan Strikeforce/C18 of Albany, New York; Michigan-based SS Action Group; Loyal White Knights of the KKK from Pelham, North Carolina; Racial Nationalist Party based in Lockport, New York; and Illinois congressional candidate Art Jones. The gathering is slated to start April 22 with a meeting and banquet at the Georgia Peach, a Klan bar in Temple, Urban said.

Asked if the groups are white supremacists, he said the SPLC calls them that but “we consider ourselves a white rights organization.”

“If you’re following politics today, everything associated with white rights today is trying to be erased from history ... We’re putting the white person’s agenda out there,” Urban said.

It’s unclear how many people the rally might draw. Urban declined to provide numbers from other NSM gatherings.

Bill Colrus of Nooga.com reported that “roughly two dozen” showed up at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, gathering two years ago and were drowned out by a larger crowd of protesters. A similar situation occurred at the group’s 2015 rally in Toledo, Ohio, according to a local NBC affiliate.