- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 30, 2016

A “White Lives Matter” rally is expected to ensue Saturday afternoon in Buffalo, New York, notwithstanding condemnation from local lawmakers and plans for a counter-protest.

The product of a Detroit-based neo-Nazi group, the National Socialist Movement (NSM), the event is being put together to take “a stand against Black Lives Matter and the chaos and destruction they have caused in this country,” according to a flyer circulated online by its organizers.

“White Lives Matter will be hosting an event for like minded folk to gather peacefully and discuss the issues we face and work towards solutions to make it a greater safer whiter world for our future generations,” wrote Rebecca Barnette, an NSM member from Tennessee who is helping organize the event.

NSM describes itself online as “the political party for every patriotic white American,” and has been called one of the largest and most prominent neo-Nazi groups in the country by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its event planned for Saturday has garnered the support of a similar group, the Aryan Nationalist Alliance, and is expected be attended by Karl Hand — a Buffalo native and long-time chairman of the Racial Nationalist Party of America.

The Buffalo Common Council said it only became aware of the event on Thursday this week and said in a statement its members “whole heartedly oppose the values held by this group.”

Nevertheless, lawmakers said they won’t stand in the way of allowing the event to occur and have no plans of interfering, Buffalo’s WGRZ reported.

“There is a right of all American citizens to gather so the city would not be able to stop it just because some might not agree with their message,” Common Council President Darius Pridgen, a Democrat, told WGRZ.

“For these people to be open about what they feel, I think that’s fine,” Mr. Pridgen said. “Now do I agree with their message? Absolutely not. The white race has not lost any civil rights that I know of as a nationality, as a color of people, so to compare the Black Lives Matter and the White Lives Matter in such a tainted way is unfortunate but it is the reality of how some people think.”

Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke told WBFO public radio that the organizers are free to exercise their First Amendment right, but called on protesters to do the same.

“I’m personally not happy about it, but they obviously have the right to assemble under the Constitution. We’re not trying to block them from assembling, but I want a loud voice from my community saying that they don’t represent our values,” said Mr. Burke.

“I’m really encouraging people to protest peacefully [and] respectfully. We really don’t want to see this get out of hand,” he said.

Indeed, the Buffalo Anti-Racism Coalition said it plans to deploy members to Cazenovia Park in South Buffalo Saturday afternoon in order to wage a rally of its own in opposition.

“Buffalo should be a welcoming and safe community for all its members, a ‘City of Good Neighbors.’ We therefore call upon all Buffalonians of good conscience to join us in a counter-demonstration where we stand together to say: No Nazis in Buffalo!” the group said in a statement.

Members of NSM and ANA did not respond to requests for comment when contacted this week by WBEN.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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