West Allis - The city is bracing itself for a neo-Nazi rally and a counter rally by several groups coalescing around Peace Action Wisconsin on Saturday.
The peace group plans to start at 1 p.m. and the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement rally is slated for 2 p.m. As a result, part of Greenfield Avenue will be blocked off and there will be no parking around the West Allis City Hall for much of the day.
The neo-Nazis called the rally to protest black-on-white violence, such as occurred on the first night of the Wisconsin State Fair this year. Black youths targeted white fair-goers for beatings as they left the fair. They also pounded and walked on cars. At least one robbery was reported.
The Nazis say on their website that their In Defense of White America Rally will be peaceful. But the site also promises: 'On Sept. 3rd there will be a mobilization of battle hardened White Men in the Milwaukee area, to welcome any flash mob.'
Hoping for peaceful approach
By contrast, peace-gatherers want to make sure cooler heads prevail.
The community groups from all over the metropolitan area that coalesced around the Peace Action counter-demonstration will urge people not to lose perspective because of some toughs who hate whites and because some black leaders have not condemned the violence.
The groups want to show a united group that is diversified and peaceful, said Mary Laan, a Milwaukee resident and counter-rally organizer.
The neo-Nazi rally dredges up negative feelings that just hold the country back in a time when we need to work together, she said.
'We need to stand united with a common focus and we need to not focus on differences anymore,' she said. 'We want to emphasize our common humanity.'
The counter-rally group plans to sing peace songs during the Nazi rally, Laan said.
Preparing for the crowds
Police expect a large turnout, said West Allis Deputy Chief Charles Padgett. Greenfield Avenue will be closed off from 74th to 76th streets around City Hall, 7525 W. Greenfield Ave., starting in the morning, he said.
West Allis police are working with other city departments, he said, and with other police agencies on crowd control. He declined to say if Department of Public Works vehicles and fencing would be used to keep crowds in controlled areas.
Milwaukee police will be there to help out for sure and Greenfield officers will be ready, if called. Other agencies probably also will be involved in crowd control.
Police were to meet with Greenfield Avenue business owners Tuesday to help them decide whether they should close during the rally, Padgett said. Earlier police alerted businesses that closing might be a good idea.
'But they'll have to evaluate the situation to see what's in their best interests, based on their location,' he said.