A Napa County Superior Court judge Friday blocked white supremacist groups from holding a planned “Aryan Woodstock” rock concert this weekend, but refused a request from local officials to ban the event altogether.
Organizers immediately announced that they will hold a political rally at the site, 70 acres of rolling farmland between Napa and Vallejo leased for the occasion by former Ku Klux Klan leader Tom Metzger. Law enforcement authorities said they will be out in force to prevent violence between white supremacists and various groups that have pledged to be on hand to protest the gathering.
The two-day event, sponsored by Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance and other supremacist groups, has stirred widespread controversy throughout Northern California. Anti-supremacist and other civil rights groups say they have rallied 5,000 people to go to the scene, 40 miles northeast of San Francisco, to protest.
Had Sought Full Ban
Napa County officials had sought to ban the neo-Nazi gathering by invoking a 1971 ordinance requiring a county permit for public outdoor rock concerts.
But Judge W. Scott Snowden refused to prevent a meeting from taking place. “All that is being enjoined is the musical activity, because that is what is regulated by the ordinance,” he said. He added later, “The strength of our free society lies not in the ability to suppress unpopular ideas, but in the supporting of the expression of unpopular ideas.”
Robert Heick, chairman of the American Front and a white supremacist organizer of the event, said he was disappointed with the court’s decision but intends to convene the gathering anyway.
“We can sing. We just can’t use (musical) instruments,” Heick said. “Tom Metzger is going to be there. His brother is going to be there. And I’m going to be there. We will talk about the general state of the movement and the media publicity we have gotten.”
Because the concert has been cancelled, Heick cut back attendance estimates from 2,000 to 200 people.
Among the protesters pledging to be present today and Sunday is Irv Rubin, national chairman of the Jewish Defense League. He said the JDL plans to mobilize thousands of people to protest the neo-Nazi gathering.
“I truly believe in the Jewish concept that if someone rises up to slay you, you rise up to slay them,” Rubin said.
Napa County Sheriff Gary Simpson said his department will be assisted by law enforcement officials from around the Bay Area to maintain order at the event.
“We’re set to go. We’re ready for any eventuality,” Simpson said.