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White supremacists, immigrant rights activists face off in Claremont

The confrontation along Foothill Boulevard is tense but nonviolent as dozens of officers from several police agencies watch over both sides in the small college town.

March 20, 2011|By Ann M. Simmons, Los Angeles Times
  • About two dozen members of the National Socialist Movement are escorted by police after their rally in Claremont against illegal immigration was met with a counter-protest by more than 200 immigrant rights activists.
About two dozen members of the National Socialist Movement are escorted… (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles…)

About two dozen white supremacists took to the streets in Claremont on Saturday to protest what they view as an unbridled flow of illegal immigration into the region, including the small college town.

Their demonstration along Foothill Boulevard was interrupted by a counter-protest of more than 200 immigrant rights activists, who decried the group as racist.

The screaming confrontation appeared to be tense but nonviolent. Dozens of officers from several police agencies watched over both sides, but Claremont police could not be reached for comment on whether anyone was arrested.

Jeff Hall, southwest regional director of the National Socialist Movement, said his group was concerned about protecting U.S. borders.

"We patrol the borders, we see the devastation, we see the drugs, we know the reality," Hall said.

But immigrant rights activist Ernesto Ayala, a member of the Brown Berets and La Raza Unida, said Hall and his fellow demonstrators had "backward and racist beliefs."

"We're not going to stand by and let them roll over people's rights," he said.

Hall said his group had been invited to rally in Claremont by local members, who are concerned about what they view as the city's overly liberal policies of protecting illegal immigrants. These include allegedly allowing students who are in the country illegally to easily enroll at Claremont Colleges; and allegedly supporting illegal day laborers.

On Saturday, Hall and his cohorts gathered on a street, clutching a banner adorned with the letters of the National Socialist Movement and a swastika in the middle. Some in the group wore black battle uniforms. Others were shirtless, sporting heavy tattoos. Many had shaved heads.

Student Chuco Felix, 21, said he attended the rally "to protest the neo-Nazis in Claremont."

They are promoting white supremacy and hate against all people of color," Felix said. "I think I am making a difference. Every voice counts. My word is my weapon."

ann.simmons@latimes.com

Times staff writer Lorraine Wang and Times staff photographer Irfan Khan contributed to this report.

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