WILLIAMSPORT – A long-anticipated neo-Nazi rally intended to be held in Brandon Park on Saturday, July 18, will no longer take place, according to city police and representatives from the National Socialist Movement.
“I have instructed all NSM members and supporters to be in Ulysses on July 17 and 18 for a gathering on private property,” said Burt Colucci, commander of the movement. “Between the city denying the permit and the current weather reports calling for rain, we feel this is the best course of action”
Colucci said there are no plans to hold a future rally in Williamsport. Ulysses is a small town in Potter County near the New York border.
Despite the assurance of no rally, city police remain prepared, according to Chief Damon Hagan.
“The National Socialist Movement has indicated they are not coming,” Hagan said. “If they do arrive, the City of Williamsport will be ready to ensure the public safety.”
Hagan declined to share what preparation measures have been taken.
On Tuesday, the Lycoming County commissioners approved $122,000 in new equipment and riot gear for the county sheriff’s department. The purchase was met with controversy from Commissioner Rick Mirabito and some members of the public who thought it was an unnecessary expense. In addition, Mirabito said it is unclear if the sheriff’s department is trained to participate in a riot or crowd control measures, and if it has the necessary liability insurance in the event of an altercation with members of the public.
At the meeting, Sheriff Mark Lusk said the “equipment is to protect us … We need law and order and to protect citizens.”
At the Thursday commissioner’s meeting, Lusk declined to comment on any further reason for the riot gear or if his office had liability insurance for that type of activity.
The neo-Nazi rally originally was to be held April 18. The permit was approved by Mayor Derek Slaughter in January; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the permit was denied and the event was canceled.
A new permit was requested by the group for July 18, but was again denied as groups of 250 people or more are unable to meet due to state restrictions.
Speculation that the group would come to the park anyway caused concern among the community and authorities.