The Detroit Police Department is under fire after videos on social media showed officers escorting a group of neo-Nazis during this year’s Motor City Pride parade.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig pushed back at that interpretation and said officers were sent to keep the peace between approximately 15 neo-Nazis and participants in the parade as well as some members of Antifa. “[For] any critics that said we escorted the National Socialist Movement (NSM) — we were keeping two groups separate, and we did walk with them at some points to keep the opposing sides away,” Craig said at a news conference on June 10.
“We kept the distance between both groups, and there was no violence,” the police chief said. “It could have been a bad situation had it erupted into violence. It did not.”
Police said that the neo-Nazis who showed up at the Pride festivities “wanted a Charlottesville No. 2,” referring to the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that ended with the death of anti-racism activist Heather Heyer. Department intelligence revealed that NSM was hoping to provoke a similar situation in Detroit.
In April, NSM leader Burt Colucci announced that his racist, fascist group would be “armed” and “counter-protesting the freaks.”
“We go in with Swastikas blazing and if people don’t like it, tough s—,” Colucci wrote on Russian social media site VK, according to The Daily Dot.
The group was armed with two long guns, three handguns, and accompanied by a lawyer, the Detroit Free Press reported. Craig told reporters that the group had a videographer and that most participants were wearing GoPro cameras. Intelligence suggested that the group planned to claim self-defense if they were attacked in any way.
The Detroit Police Department’s goal was to keep the neo-Nazis and counter-protesters separated to avoid any violence.
The police chief also revealed that the department warned a neo-Nazi that he would be arrested if he burned a Pride flag. Instead the white supremacist ripped up the LGBTQ flag.
A photo of a neo-Nazi protester urinating on an Israeli flag was quickly shared on social media. However, Craig and two Detroit Free Press reporters who witnessed the incident said that the urination was simulated.
Colucci later shared videos of his neo-Nazi group flashing the hand sign for white supremacy and yelling out racial slurs, including the N-word, and derogatory slurs against LGBTQ people. A member of his group was also seen doing a Nazi salute and posing for photographs.
Video of the incident was shared by Twitter user @marcklock, who claims he is a Detroit volunteer for Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. “Today at Motor City Pride, a friendly LGBT+ event, Detroit PD escorted Nazi’s in full uniform outside of the entrance to the festival. Detroit PD bruised those that tried to intervene (see below) and allowed this to happen,” he wrote.
Fellow Pride attendee Jessica Prozinski shared the injuries that she allegedly sustained during the march on Facebook, The Daily Dot reported. “Thanks Detroit Police Department,” Prozinski wrote. “While you were clearing a path for Nazis to march in downtown Detroit, you got your disgusting fingerprints all over me.”
Craig also addressed critics who said officers were escorting the neo-Nazi group. “We took no sides, we did exactly what we do at each and every one of these things,” he said, according to WXYZ.
The Detroit Police Department did not release further comment and instead referred The North Star to the chief’s news conference on Monday.
NSM is listed as one of the largest and most prominent neo-Nazi groups in the United States by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The group, which was founded in 1994 in Detroit, is notorious for its anti-Jewish rhetoric and racist views. Its roots are traced back to the original American Nazi Party, which was founded by former Navy Commander George Lincoln Rockwell in 1959, SPLC reported.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.