A neo-Nazi group that blames minorities and immigrants for America's problems has received a police permit to march in downtown Washington on Aug. 7, authorities said yesterday.
The Knights of Freedom Nationalist Party, a two-year-old organization based in South Carolina, plans to march from Edward R. Murrow Park, at 19th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, to Lafayette Square, according to permit applications filed with D.C. police and the National Park Service. The group plans to end the event, which will run from 3 to 6 p.m., with a rally near the White House.
D.C. police approved the march last month, officials said. The Park Service, which controls Murrow Park and Lafayette Square, is expected to give formal approval this week, according to Earle Kittleman, a Park Service spokesman.
The planned march is being monitored closely by local authorities, who fear a recurrence of the violence that erupted during previous such rallies in the city.
"The past history of this type of protest has us concerned, but these people have a right to demonstrate as anyone else does," said U.S. Park Police Capt. Sal Lauro.
After a demonstration by Ku Klux Klan members in November 1982, rioting and looting broke out among people who had protested the rally.
A march by 27 members of the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan down Constitution Avenue NW to the U.S. Capitol in October 1990 led to 14 injuries and 40 arrests after rock-throwing counter-demonstrators scuffled with police.
"We're planning to have a very peaceful march," said Cmdr. Michael Radzilowski, of the D.C. police special operations division. "We're going to put out whatever resources we need to do that."
Although the group's permit application estimated that 200 to 300 marchers would take part, authorities said they are more concerned about the number of counter-demonstrators who may show up.
Officials from the D.C. police and the Park Service met with Davis Wolfgang Hawke, the group's leader, on May 24 to discuss logistics. Park Police Sgt. Diana Smith said Hawke described the march only as an "anti-government protest."
The group's site on the World Wide Web says the march is against immigration, affirmative action and gun control.
"This is not to provoke the minorities or anything like that," Jeff Kay, the group's executive vice president, said. "This is to show our solidarity with our white brothers and sisters throughout the world. We've had it. We want our constitutional rights as much as the black person wants it."
Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which monitors radical right-wing groups in this country, estimated that the Knights of Freedom has attracted nearly 200 members, primarily by the Internet. However, Kay said the group has more than 1,000 "members and sympathizers."
Hawke, 21, a rising senior at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., founded the group in August 1996.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Boston Globe reported this year that Hawke, originally named Andrew Britt Greenbaum, is partly of Jewish descent and grew up in an affluent suburb of Boston. On the group's Web site, Hawke denies Jewish ancestry.