WILLIAMSPORT, LYCOMING COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The largest neo-Nazi organization in the country is planning a rally for next month in Lycoming County.
The neo-Nazi group is known for its violent anti-Jewish rhetoric, racist views, and willingness to allow other hate groups to join in.
It is the largest and most active Nazi organization in the United States. Its 30 to 40 core members, made up of white supremacists and Klansmen, routinely travel for event and Williamsport is now one of their destinations.
“There are some what we believe up in the northern tier, some sympathizers to this group and so the only connection we can make at this point is that there are some folks up there and they’ll be traveling down here,” Williamsport mayor Derek Slaughter said.
“I think it’s crazy. I never heard about it but I hope there’s no problems with that going on next month,” Linda Fulford of Williamsport said.
Many neighbors Eyewitness News spoke with are concerned, but city leaders say the group still has First Amendment rights to assemble, and their hands are tied.
“We could deny the permit, but they would come anyway and they’ve made it very clear they would come anyway,” Williamsport Police Chief Damon Hagan said.
“We support the Constitution and everyone has the right and are entitled to rights via the Constitution,” Slaughter said.
City leaders say the same neo-Nazi group attended the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017 that turned violent. One woman was killed and 30 others were injured. It’s why city leaders and law enforcement are planning a positive community event the same day as the rally.
“One of the recommendations from law enforcement personnel was to conduct a positive event on the opposite side of town for folks to go to so we strongly suggest that if folks want somewhere to go, community members, they go to the positive event,” Slaughter said.
It will be called Dare to Be Different with various activities for kids and community members of all ages.
“We believe our best option is to just set up an operation out there that will provide safety for the community,” Hagan said.
The National Socialist Movement Rally is scheduled for Saturday, April 18th.