CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Community members are preparing to counter messages of hate as a national neo-Nazi group and a North Carolina Ku Klux Klan make plans to rally in Uptown on Saturday.

UPDATED COVERAGE: Click here to read our full report on the Nov. 10 neo-Nazi and KKK rally in Uptown Charlotte.

The National Socialist Movement, based in in Detroit, Mich., is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is led by Jeff Schoep. The Eden, N.C.-based Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has also announced they will join Schoep’s rally, primarily intended as a protest against undocumented immigration.

The event begins at 3 p.m. with a march from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center to Old City Hall. The rally will be staged there.

Dozens or more counter-protesters are expected to attend. Organizer Lacey Williams of the Latin American Coalition has been encouraging counter-protesters to come dressed as clowns. (See more information on the counter-protest at Facebook.)

“We can’t let folks like this come to town without addressing it,” she told qnotes on Nov 1. The clown costumes are meant, Williams said, to “show them as they are.”

Williams said she expects 50 to 100 people in her counter-protest group. Other groups might also be present. Williams has been working with police to ensure safety and will have volunteers on-hand to help.

“We are planning a peaceful protest and will use humor to underscore how ridiculous these hate groups are,” Williams said via email on Friday. “Our message is really that we can’t take these folks seriously. Our side of the street will look like the best of what the US has to offer: it’s multicultural present and future and their side will look like the worst chapter of America’s history.”

The National Socialist Movement has long been tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the center, the National Socialist Movement has its historic roots in the original American Nazi Party, founded in 1959. Leadership changed hands in 1967 after its founder was murdered by a follower. In 1994, current leader Schoep took the reins and renamed the group. The group’s carefully-planned protests and rallies have caused riots. The group once protested in full Nazi Brownshirt uniforms but now uses black “Battle Dress Uniforms.”

The National Socialist Movement is the largest neo-Nazi hate group in the U.S. It has 57 chapters in 39 states, including a statewide chapter in North Carolina. A local leader of the group told qnotes that the Charlotte rally is one of two national gatherings the group holds each year, one in the spring and one in the fall.

Efforts to reach Schoep were unsuccessful. A voicemail left for him was returned on Nov. 2 by a National Socialist Movement official who declined to reveal his name. In the voicemail to this writer, the official said they would offer no interview.

“We’re not going to do anymore interviews, period, with any homosexual newspaper writers. Ain’t gonna happen,” the caller said. “As far as I’m concerned, you guys can just keep bending each other over and giving each other your anal induced death syndrome disease and live a very slow, painful suffering life for all I care, until you meet your maker. And you know what it says in the Bible about homosexuals. If you don’t you might want to read about it because I don’t think the direction you’re going to be going in or staying in is up there in the Kingdom of God, so I hope you have a fireproof suit to take with you.”

The neo-Nazi and KKK rally comes nearly one month after Louis Farrakhan, also documented as a hate group leader by the Southern Poverty Law Center, visited Charlotte for a speech at Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church and a Bojangles’ Coliseum rally which attracted 6,000. Several elected officials and other leaders, including Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, came under scrutiny after attending those events. The city’s first and only openly LGBT elected official, Mayfield attended the Little Rock speech where she tweeted Farrakhan was “doing God’s will.” She’s since declined repeated requests by this newspaper to go on-record with a statement condemning anti-Semitism and anti-LGBT hatred.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.