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Monday, July 3, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Neo-Nazis to rally in Olympia today

Seattle Times staff reporter

Olympia city officials and members of the community gathered Sunday for a daylong tribute to diversity in response to a neo-Nazi rally planned for today on the Capitol steps.

Gov. Christine Gregoire declared today "State Unity Day" and urged cross-cultural understanding in a statement read during Sunday's rally by Washington Human Rights Commission director Marc Brenman.

The "Unity in the Community Festival" in downtown Olympia's Sylvester Park featured live music, dance and speakers from local government, youth and church organizations and advocacy groups. The event was organized by Unity in the Community, an Olympia-based coalition formed in 1992 as a ballast against the growing presence of neo-Nazism in Olympia, said festival coordinator Reiko Callner.

"We were put in the mood by the upcoming Nazi rally, and we decided to take back the weekend," said Callner, who estimated the crowd at Sunday's festival at 150.

Speakers included former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro, Olympia Mayor Mark Foutch and Washington Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Kathy Baros-Friedt.

The neo-Nazi rally is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. on the steps of the Capitol Building. Members from all over the West Coast are expected to attend, said National Socialist Movement director Jeff Schoep.

"We want our message to be heard," Schoep said. "We're there for the white community.

"As with our other rallies, we are standing against immigration. These people are pouring over from Mexico and they're not assimilating like our forefathers did. They're coming here to exploit our country, and we don't want them here."

Kathy F. Mahdoubi: 206-464-8292 or kmahdoubi@seattletimes.com

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