Detroit Pride Parade: Armed Neo-Nazis Made Chimpanzee Noises at African Americans to Incite Another Charlottesville

Detroit police chief James Craig has said that the neo-Nazis who showed up at the city's Pride Parade on Sunday made chimpanzee noises towards African Americans as part of an attempt to incite violence, hoping to recreate the events of the infamous Charlottesville rally in 2017.

At Charlottesville's "Unite the Right" rally, violent clashes broke out between white supremacist groups and counter-protesters. One white supremacist drove his car at speed into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring others.

Craig also defended his department's decision to escort the small group of neo-Nazis, who were from the National Socialist Movement and openly armed, in order to keep the peace at the Pride Parade, an annual celebration of all things LGBT.

"They were open carrying and I'm told it was their intent, at least through our intelligence sources, that they wanted a Charlottesville number two," Craig told a news conference on Monday.

"As it turned out, there was no violence. And so, for me, I applaud the Detroit Police Department once again for keeping the line of communication open. This could have been a bad situation had it erupted into violence. It did not."

He later added: "But they were hoping, because of the open carry, they were frankly trying to bait this police department, trying to bait the other side, and the other side, the opposing protest group, was trying to bait our officers as well."

Craig said both sides were shouting racial epithets at each other and to the police officers trying to keep the groups separate to deter any outbreak of violence.

"The National Socialist Movement was making a mocking noise consistent with that of a chimpanzee, directing it at certain African Americans, trying to bait people into a violent encounter," he said.

The police chief also addressed images from the event which appeared to show neo-Nazis urinating on an Israel flag and tearing apart a rainbow Pride flag. He said police investigated the first image and established that the desecration did not actually occur.

Craig also said there was an intention by one individual to set the flag on fire, but they were warned by police of arrest, and so it did not happen. A pride flag was destroyed by tearing, he said. "We view this as a success because nobody got hurt," Craig said of his department's handling of the event.

Stephanie White, a spokesperson for Dave Wait, chairman of Detroit pride festival organizers Motor City Pride, said the small group of neo-Nazis had very little effect on the 50,000 people who attended the festival.

"They failed to incite violence and they failed to intimidate us. This was the biggest Pride celebration in Michigan's history and it was a loving and peaceful event," White told Newsweek.

"If you ask 99 percent of the 50,000 festival-goers about their experience, they will report on the joy and celebration of our community.

"Those of us who are LGBTQ (and especially trans women of color) suffer a disproportionate share of violence, which is always on our minds.

"This Nazi group certainly had the potential to instigate violence and we are thankful that the police remained calm and managed to keep things from spiraling out of control."

White added: "Ultimately, all that the Nazi group succeeded in doing was providing a good example of why we need political leaders in Michigan to amend our state civil rights act so that it prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

Detroit Pride Parade Nazis Michigan LGBT
Locals and onlookers shout and wave rainbow flags during the Motor City Pride Parade on June 9, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Neo-Nazis turned up to the event and made chimp noises at African Americans. Brittany Greeson/Getty Images

Correction: This article was updated to say the Pride Parade took place on Sunday.

Detroit Pride Parade: Armed Neo-Nazis Made Chimpanzee Noises at African Americans to Incite Another Charlottesville | U.S.