Few White Supremacists March At Pa.’s Gettysburg
GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) – A demonstration by a dozen white supremacists at one of the nation’s most famous Civil War battlefields ended without incident Saturday, as a heavy police presence kept them isolated from the slightly larger group of counterprotesters.
The event by the northeastern region of the Aryan Nations was held just a few hundred yards from the site where the Union Army repulsed the Confederates in Pickett’s Charge during the famed 1863 battle. A nearby road was closed off and the event attracted few spectators, unlike a 2006 supremacist rally at the park that drew an audience of 200 people.
The Aryan Nations contingent – bused into the site with phalanx of motorcycle police guards – shouted their message of hatred toward blacks, Jews, Mexicans, gays and the groups that showed up and tried to drown them out.
Hundreds of rented metal fence segments were set up directly behind the building that once housed the Gettysburg Cyclorama painting, an immense circular canvas depicting Pickett’s Charge. The Aryan Nations group – including one boy – stood in a line, bearing flags and grim facial expressions and were kept in an area inaccessible to the counterdemonstrators.
“You don’t need to worry about us, we aren’t the racists,’’ said Gordon Young of Sharpsburg, Md., who obtained a permit for the demonstration. “Those commies are the racists.’’
They punctuated their remarks with Nazi salutes, and at one point a participant theatrically trampled what appeared to be the Mexican flag.
There were dozens of U.S. Park Police, and security arrangements included a rooftop observation point and a helicopter that circled repeatedly. The two sides taunted each other, but they never got close and officials said afterward there had been no arrests or other incidents.
Counterdemonstrators used bullhorns to drown out the Aryan Nations group, blew bubbles and held signs that included “Fight sin, not the skin’’ and “The only good fascist is a dead one.’’ At one point they urged the group to “Follow your leader and shoot yourself in the head,’’ a reference to Adolf Hitler’s suicide as Russian troops approached.
“In the history of white supremacist movements, if they are left alone they grow, and sometimes they grown to the millions,’’ said Jose Martin of Brooklyn, a member of Anti-Racist Action. He called the Aryan Nations’ choice of venue – where Union soldiers died in a fight against slavery – a desecration of their graves.
Jill Shambaugh, a 24-yearold government worker from Mechanicsburg, was with a few friends among the counterprotesters. Shambaugh attended Gettysburg College.
“I don’t want them in my community, and I don’t want to hear their message of hate,’’ she said. “We want them to know they’re not welcome here.’’
Young said his group planned to set on fire a cross and a swastika later Saturday at a site in Maryland.