Neo-Nazis, protesters clash in Michigan capital

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) – A group of white supremacists demonstrating outside Michigan’s Capitol was far outnumbered by 500 protesters who were screened by metal detectors and kept separate by 6-foot-high chain-link fences.

About 75 people from the Minneapolis-based National Socialist Movement were met with taunts from hundreds of protesters in what police described as a generally orderly event.

State and city police reported 16 arrests, mostly for disorderly conduct and other misdemeanors. Two people were taken to a hospital for minor injuries and a third was treated at the scene following scuffling between the two groups, police said.

Police said rocks were thrown at some officers as protesters left the rally site and windows of a police van were smashed, but no police injuries were reported.

About 500 law enforcement officers – some in helicopters and on horseback – kept the peace.

“I don’t think it’s OK to preach hate,” said Laura Harms of Lansing, who carried a pink sign that read “People Power.”

When protesters shouted at the neo-Nazis, group leader Jeff Schoep replied: “I will not be shouted down … you will not stop us. You will not silence us.”

Group leaders said they picked Lansing as a rally site in part because of Michigan’s sluggish economy and white supremacists’ growing frustration with illegal immigration’s effects on employment.

“The people want the borders closed and we will close them,” Schoep told reporters before the rally.

Despite the focus on illegal immigrants, several speakers from the neo-Nazi group criticized Jews and mainstream political parties.

The members were bused into the rally from an undisclosed location and returned there later with police assistance.

Security was high after violence broke out at recent National Socialist Movement events in Ohio and Florida.

Several blocks away, several hundred people attended a rally hosted by city officials at a high school to promote diversity. Police said no problems were reported.

AP-ES-04-22-06 2225EDT

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