Thursday, January 8, 2009

National Geographic's "Inside: American Nazis" Sun. Jan. 11 - 8:00pm

National Geographic's Inside: American Nazis Premieres Sunday, January 11 at 9p et/pt.

'American Nazis' goes inside the growing trend of hate in America. Neo-Nazi groups in the U.S. are made up of many factions, but they share a common ideology that includes veneration of Hitler, hatred of Jews, and white supremacy. We go inside three extreme groups - Aryan Nations, White Revolution, and the Nationalist Socialist Movement - to discover how they exploit anti-immigration sentiment for their own agenda, and how their violent rhetoric has led to hate crimes against Jews and Latinos.


Clash of Ideas on the National Mall

Mike Sinclair
Series Producer - M2 Pictures

April 19th. It's a date that's never really held any great significance for me. In fact, as our video crew gathered on the national mall that spring morning our first thought was to try and get some b-roll of tourists hanging out in the warm weather, walking their dogs and playing Frisbee in front of the Washington Monument. It was just like any other pleasant day in the nation's capital. But, as the police buses began arriving on the mall, and the officers took up their positions lining the streets in SWAT gear, the idyllic scene started taking on a menacing tone. April 19th, is the day before Hitler's birthday. Our camera crew was there that morning because we were doing a story exploring the causes of the rise in membership among neo-Nazi organizations. The police were there because a group of American Nazis were coming to town to celebrate the birth of their Fuhrer. They planned to use the occasion to protest immigration and what they called the "browning of America." Their message was a simple one. They believe America should be a nation for whites only. On this day, they planned to march from the Washington Monument to the steps of the U.S. Capital to shout their message of hate to the world.

"He looked me in the eye and said 'Somebody has to stand up to these thugs and tell them that their hate is not welcome here... no matter what the consequences.' "

In the end over a 1000 police showed up to protect just over two dozen Nazis freedom of speech. It is America after all, and everyone, even Nazis, are free to say what they want. But, the police were on hand to make certain the Nazis' violent rhetoric didn't spark violent action. Nazi marches had incited violence before.

We were one of the first television crews to arrive on the mall to cover the march. We had gotten some shots in the morning of the preparations, and took a break for lunch while we waited for the Nazis to arrive. (Even when you're covering Nazis, you've got make sure you feed the crew.) We actually had a second crew tagging along with the Nazis as we had been covering the National Socialist Movement for several weeks before the event and we knew they were still about an hour away. We sat down on the grass near the monument to eat when we began to hear drumming and chanting, and group of about sixty young people came rushing towards us. All of them bright clothes, some had their faces painted and others hid their faces with bandanas. They were banging sticks on paint buckets with Swastikas with a slash through the symbol. These young people were from several anti-racist organizations from around the country. They had organized on the internet, and come together in Washington, D.C. to protest the Nazi march.

Inside American Nazis Premieres January 11 at 9p et/ptThe anti-racists marched past us and straight up to the base of the monument. They were immediately confronted by three Nazi sympathizers who walked straight through the group to antagonize them. It worked. The two groups clashed and the police rushed in to restore order. Our cameras were in the middle as the chaos erupted, and by the time the pepper spray cleared, the police had moved the Nazi sympathizers out, and arrested several anti-racists. The confrontation erupted so quickly, and the consequences for the anti racists seemed so high that I wanted to ask them why they would risk getting busted in the head and going to jail just to protest a handful of Nazis. We talked with one of the protestors as he watched the police handcuff one of his friends. The man told me, that he had to show up. "This is America man, and this is our backyard" he said. " We can't just let these ignorant people who don't understand change just come in here and spew this hate" he continued. He looked me in the eye. "Somebody has to stand up to these thugs and tell them that their hate is not welcome here... no matter what the consequences" he said.

The arrests did not deter the anti-racists. By the time the Nazis showed up on the mall, the Anti-racist protestors outnumbered them more than 3 to 1. They followed the Nazis along the march route trying to drown out the Nazi hate speech with chants of their own. In the end, when the Nazis arrived on the steps of the capital to deliver the speech they waited months to deliver -- a speech extolling white supremacy, intolerance and hate -- none of the crowd who gathered could hear them. The Anti-racists drowned out their speech with another Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream speech" blared from a bullhorn.

After their march the Nazis declared victory in their war of ideas. They claimed they gained new members through their bold stand and even opened a few new chapters, but in a few short weeks I think the real winner will be evident. On that very location where the Nazis declared that America should be for whites only, the first African American in U.S. history will be sworn in as President of the United States. It seems Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream continues to drown out the Nazis hate.

Inside: American Nazis Premieres Sunday, January 11 at 9p et/pt. Click here for more information on the Inside Series.

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