Quiet West Allis will serve as ground zero this Labor Day weekend on the test of free speech, as an organized labor movement faces off against a neo-Nazi group.
And in the latest twist on union protests that this summer have disrupted Gov. Scott Walkerappearances at a Milwaukee Catholic school, the Wisconsin State Fair and a Special Olympics ceremony, the labor-led Wisconsin Bailout the People Movement is trying to draw a link between Walker and the Nazis.
The National Socialist Movement has scheduled an “In Defense of White America Rally” on Saturday afternoon in West Allis, in response to what organizers have characterized as black flash mobs earlier this month at the Wisconsin State Fair.
Wisconsin Reporter has learned that Bailout the People Movement plans a counter rally, billed as “We Need Jobs — Not Hate,” for 1 p.m. at West Allis City Hall.
While the protest ostensibly aims to stand up against hate speech, fliers urge rally-goers that “UNITY” is needed “to fight Gov. Walker’s union busting.”
“Nazi scum are coming to West Allis on Sept. 3. They want to spread their poison and divide working and poor people,” the flier states.
Wisconsin Bailout the People, part of a New York organization that takes issue with the multi-billion dollar bailouts to U.S. banks and corporations, asserts Act 10, or the budget repair bill that curtailed collective bargaining for many public employees, was a kind of old-school Nazi tactic.
“Like the Tea Party bigots who support Walker, the Nazis are doing the dirty work of big business,” the flier states.
“These are individual politicians who have been bankrolled by the highest levels of banks and corporations in Wisconsin … and there is a historical continuum here with a connection between the Nazis and big business,” said Bryan Pfeifer, a former union member and organizer who is helping lead the Wisconsin movement.
Pfeifer stopped short of calling Walker a Nazi, like some in the organized labor movement did during the spring session, but he makes some pointed accusations about those committed to "union busting" in Wisconsin.
“This is a dangerous time in Wisconsin, and trade unions are in a very precarious position,” he said. “(Businesses) want to physically harm and exterminate union members. Anything related to unions, they want to literally eviscerate.”
The Republican Party of Wisconsin declined to comment, and Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said he would not dignify the labor movement's accusations with a response.
Harriet P., regional director and state leader for the National Socialist Movement, told Wisconsin Reporter that it’s ironic that the union-led group is linking the neo-Nazis to Walker or the party. She said the organization is not connected to a political party.
“I’d just as soon not vote for Scott Walker and never would,” said Harriet P., who asked not to be identified by her last name for fear of violence. “I really don’t know why they’re making our rallies a target of their next protest.”
West Allis police, meanwhile, could have their hands full this weekend.
“Whenever we have groups together with opposing views, there’s that potential (for problems), particularly when there are large numbers we should be expecting,” Charles Padgett, deputy chief of the West Allis Police Department told Wisconsin Reporter.
Pfeiffer said he expects some 30 organizations, including hundreds of union and peace supporters, will turn out for the counter rally Saturday. The National Socialist Movement expects dozens of people protesting on their side.
Padgett said his department is working with area and state law enforcement agencies to secure the area.
Police have urged businesses to close during the rallies. Padgett said he hopes demonstrators will be respectful of one another.
“Anytime people come out and express their views on something, which is their right to do, it always helps to respect everyone else. Otherwise it takes away from their message that they’re trying to get out,” the deputy chief said.
Kirsten Adshead contributed to this report.