Confronted by an agitated crowd of about 300 people, seven white supremacists were taken into protective custody Saturday as they attempted to march in support of the not guilty verdicts in the Rodney G. King beating case.
Simi Valley police and Ventura County sheriff’s deputies escorted members of the Mississippi-based Nationalist Movement from the City Hall and East County Courthouse area, where the march was to begin over the objection of city leaders.
Before loading the supremacists into police vans, a demonstrator struck one Nationalist Movement member with a stick. Police quickly formed riot lines in the parking lot to isolate the supremacists from counterdemonstrators shouting obscenities. The crowd then turned on police, striking one officer with a stick and a second officer with a rock.
Police arrested five adult demonstrators and one juvenile.
Nationalist Movement leader Richard Barrett was taken into custody and later vowed to return to the city to complete the march, which was halted by police who said they were concerned about public safety.
But Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury, who was at the site, said if the supremacists were to stage another march, they would again be taken into protective custody.
When one Simi Valley man accused Bradbury of being too protective of the group, he said police acted properly. “There would have been a blood bath,” he said.
Those who showed up to protest the march said they came from Los Angeles and as far away as the Bay Area.
“We wanted to come down here to smash the Nazis,” said Scott Reed, a San Francisco man who is a member of the National Women’s Rights Organizing Coalition and the Revolutionary Workers League. “We wanted to get at them and hurt them and possibly kill them.”
The supremacists and the counterprotesters began assembling late Saturday morning to prepare for a 1 p.m. march, but by 12:45 p.m. police declared the gathering unlawful and ordered protesters to disperse or be arrested.
Barrett and his handful of supporters were encircled by deputies in a small area at the north end of the parking lot. Epithets and angry slogans were shouted at the supremacists, who were carrying an American flag and a red flag bearing a yellow cross.
James Jones of Los Angeles, one of Barrett’s supporters, said he came to march because “nobody’s really supporting the police in the matter. I say we need law and order in America, and that’s what I’m here for. Looters should go to jail.”
Also among the people who came to march with Barrett was a 19-year-old man who said it would not be safe to give his name.
“I’m here in support of my movement,” he said. “It’s a racist movement. We have no intention of provoking violence. Anything we say is (protected by) freedom of speech.”
As the level of activity became more frenetic across the parking lot and others crowded near the supremacists, police escorted Barrett and his group to a van and drove them to police headquarters. They were held for an hour and released.
Two Simi Valley residents, Shelle Hogan and her stepmother, Tracey Hogan, shouted at the group as they got into the police van.
“You have no right to wear that flag, Mr. Barrett!” Tracey Hogan yelled.
Several Simi Valley residents in the crowd said they resented their city being chosen for the white supremacists’ rally in the aftermath of the King verdicts.
“We’ve been trashed so much because of this,” Shelle Hogan said.
Arrested in connection with the disturbances were a 15-year-old Los Angeles youth; Joseph Wagner, 20, of Los Angeles; Joseph Ortez, 38, of Los Angeles; Steve Moss, 23, of Santa Monica; Juan Rosborough, 37, of Simi Valley, and Jeffrey Snitzer, 32, of Simi Valley.
Times correspondent Peggy Y. Lee contributed to this story.