Neo-Nazis to rally in Topeka

State authorities aim to protect speech, avert violence at event

A Nazi group plans to stage a white supremacy demonstration next month on the steps of the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

The “White Unity Rally” is scheduled for Aug. 24 and is being sponsored by a Minnesota-based group called the National Socialist Movement.

On its Web site, the group encourages other “Pro-White” organizations to join the rally. “Do not be discouraged from fighting for your Race, your rights, and your children’s future,” notice of the rally states.

Jeff Schoep, commander of the party, said Kansas was chosen as the site for the rally because of interest by many people in his organization for the state’s central location.

He said the organization also was outraged that the slayings of five white people in 2000 in Wichita was not being reported as a hate crime. Two black men face capital murder charges in the homicides.

The group staged a rally last year on the steps of the Minnesota state Capitol in St. Paul that also attracted the Ku Klux Klan and about 1,000 counterdemonstrators, according to reports.

Several eggs were thrown and several arrests were made, but the rally came off without any serious incidents, officials said.

Kansas authorities said they were hoping to avoid violence at the Topeka rally.

“We want to make sure that all of the groups stay safe and can exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Kansas Highway Patrol 2nd Lt. John Eichkorn.

He said officials from state and local law enforcement agencies had been meeting to discuss how to handle the rally, and they would try to make contact with any group that plans to demonstrate.

“We also know that there will be other groups once word gets out. We would like to talk with them too, to set the ground rules and have an understanding beforehand so that we can carry off a peaceful demonstration,” Eichkorn said.

He said he had no idea how much the extra security would cost.

At similar white supremacist rallies, participants stand in a certain area shouting their message, while counterdemonstrators are kept away by law officials. The events usually turn into shouting matches.

The permit for the rally was approved by the Kansas Department of Administration. Ben Bauman, a spokesman for the department, said the group complied with rules of conducting an event on the Statehouse grounds.

“They complied with everything that is asked of them. We rarely deny applications for usage of the grounds,” Bauman said. “Usually when we do deny, it is on the basis of a conflicting event.”

In 1994, the KKK conducted a rally at the state Capitol against the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The demonstration drew more than 500 counterdemonstrators who gathered to honor King.

Roy Menninger, chairman of the anti-hate group Concerned Citizens for Topeka, said his group planned to have a “competitive rally” for the Aug. 24 rally by the National Socialist Movement.

“What we’re thinking about doing is not a counterdemonstration on who can shout the loudest, but instead find an alternative place for people to rally who are in a different frame of mind,” Menninger said.

But, he said, rallies by white supremacists “can stir up a lot of anger, and that leads to confrontation. I can’t say there won’t be some of those types around, but we are in a different place.”