The parade by white supremacists, about 20 in all, covered less than four blocks and lasted only about 30 minutes. But it stirred a community outpouring that spanned most of the day and included a large contingent of counterprotesters.
Members of the National Socialist Movement chanted messages of hate, waved signs and marched in ragged order Saturday afternoon while several hundred bystanders gawked, dozens of photographers snapped pictures and a few protesters spit and threw eggs. Seven counterdemonstrators were arrested, including five who don’t call Columbia home.
The community response began shortly after sunrise, hours before the first neo-Nazi stepped onto Elm Street, and lasted through the afternoon, long after the last neo-Nazi was gone. It included a procession of peace and prayer, a rally at the Boone County Courthouse and a gathering at Douglass Park that attracted an estimated 3,000, according to a Columbia Parks and Recreation Department employee.
Mayor Darwin Hindman said the community can turn the day’s events “into another step forward.”
“This is a wonderful city,” he said. “Let’s keep it that way.”