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The Neo-Nazis Have Come and Gone: What Did We Learn?

March 13, 2007

Story Contact:  Roger Worthington, 573-882-1513,

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the work and communications that provided support against the challenge we faced this weekend in Columbia.

The Neo-Nazi marchers drew a crowd of several hundred-mostly counter-protesters and many curious onlookers. There was an overwhelming police presence, including SWAT teams, squads in riot gear, mounted police, representatives from law enforcement from across the state, and a police helicopter. Some of the counter-protesters came from out of town and were among the majority of those arrested-5 of the 7 total arrests. The march lasted only about 50 minutes in total and was itself a footnote to an intensive week of very positive efforts at preparation.

There were several large peaceful demonstrations throughout the week, including:

  • numerous community planning meetings that featured the hard work and cooperation of town and gown, police and community, and people from every cultural background; 
  • a Theatre of the Oppressed performance on Thursday in Speaker's Circle, written and directed by Dr. Suzanne Burgoyne, based on the famous poem by Martin Niemoller (see below), attended by about 200 people; 
  • Professor Larry Brown gave a talk on Friday about "The New White Nationalism," which was attended by about 100 people; 
  • nearly $10,000 in pledges (if the march had lasted 5 hours) for donations to local and national social justice organizations were collected; 
  • an early morning march on Saturday by about 21 members of the clergy; 
  • a pre-march demonstration by the NAACP on the steps of the courthouse about one-mile away from the march route, attended by nearly 100 people; 
  • a 5-hour community gathering at Douglass Park to celebrate diversity that attracted as many as 3000 people of all ages from the university and community from the widest range of backgrounds in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and social class. 

Many people who have lived in Columbia for 30 years or more said that the community came together in an unprecedented way and that they had never witnessed the kind of diversity in a single event like that was represented at Douglass Park on Saturday.

Although the march lasted only about one hour, my hope is that there will be some very generous people who go ahead and contribute to local social justice organizations at the five-hour level. That's what I plan to do.

We now have plans on campus for several ways we can "debrief" with students, faculty, staff and community members. This evening the Columbia Human Rights Commission is sponsoring a public movie screening of the film "Not In Our Town", followed by an open forum. And representatives from Student Life and Difficult Dialogues will be planning a Town Hall meeting for students.

I think one of our most important commitments will be to sustain the community and university relationships that have formed during this intensive planning effort.

"First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me."

— Martin Niemoller

Roger L. Worthington, Ph.D.
Interim Chief Diversity Officer