NORFOLK, Va. – Citing the First Amendment right to free speech and peaceable assembly, the National Park Service (search) granted a neo-Nazi group's request to hold a rally at a national monument to democracy.
The National Socialist Movement (search) plans to hold a rally June 25 at the Yorktown Battlefield, Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said Friday.
"Because this is a First Amendment issue, it cannot be turned down," Litterst said.
However, the group probably will not have the rally on its chosen site — Surrender Field, which is where the British army surrendered to Gen. George Washington to end the Revolutionary War.
Litterst said no group has ever been permitted to use that field, which is a popular tourist attraction.
The National Socialist Movement, which claims to be the nation's largest Nazi party, did not respond to requests for interviews Friday, but the Minneapolis-based group said on its application that it chose the Yorktown Battlefield because of a desire to honor Washington. They say Washington held anti-Semitic views — a position disputed by many scholars.
The group's application said up to 300 people will demonstrate at the southeastern Virginia park, but only about 100 showed up when it held a similar rally last September at Valley Forge National Historical Park (search). They were heckled by twice as many counter-demonstrators.
Litterst said the Park Service would have a substantial police presence at the Yorktown rally.