Representatives from the NAACP from across Missouri joined about 100 Columbia residents outside on the Boone County Courthouse steps at 11 a.m. Saturday to rally against the National Socialist Movement march.
“We, the NAACP, did not believe that we could drink, eat and be merry while the Klan marched through our town,” said Mary Ratliff, of Columbia, an organizer of the event and president of the Missouri chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Ratliff said that she would have rather had a counterdemonstration on Elm Street, part of the route for the National Socialist Movement march, but did not have enough time to organize it.
The NAACP’s event began and ended with prayer. Speakers included Mayor Darwin Hindman, Rabbi Yossi Feintuch, of Congregation Beth Shalom and MU law student Syreeta McNeal.
Hindman said the gathering was part of an effective community response.
“The fact is that Columbia is a diverse place, and that’s good,” Hindman said. “But we’re not perfect. Now we have a challenge. Martin Luther King Jr. would want this crisis to be handled peacefully, but he would want us to speak up.”
The mayor went on to say, “We can turn their (neo-Nazi) parade into another step forward. This is a wonderful city. Let’s keep it that way.”
Feintuch likened the neo-Nazi parade to the Holocaust.
“Friends, the swastikas and high-hand salutes that Columbia will experience today stand for much evil,” Feintuch said. “Columbians, we hope, will turn a very cold shoulder and say no to hate in our city.”
He urged Columbia residents to say no to “would-be Hitler henchmen.”
McNeal said that Columbia’s public officials could have tried to stop the parade through the courts. “I wonder why the city officials did not even attempt a legal challenge,” she said.