White supremacists bound for rally attacked at hotel

20 to 30 people arrested in melee in Baltimore

August 25, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

About 200 white supremacists on their way to a Washington rally were attacked with gas grenades, tire irons, baseball bats and hockey sticks at a Southeast Baltimore hotel yesterday, police said.

Twenty to 30 people were arrested on assault and weapons charges in the melee, which erupted about 7:30 a.m. in the parking lot, lobby and hotel rooms of a Best Western in the 5600 block of O'Donnell St., police said. Officials said about 30 to 40 people participated in the attack.

Three of the white supremacists suffered minor injuries, and one of those was treated at an area hospital, police said.

Fifty to 60 police officers responding to the scene brought the fight under control within half an hour, Maj. Fred Bealefeld III said.

It was not immediately known whether the attackers were counter-demonstrators or members of a rival supremacist group, police said. Police identified the victims as white supremacists and skinheads based on their clothing and tattoos, which featured swastikas and other Nazi symbols.

Some members of the group said they belong to the National Alliance, an organization whose Web site promotes the creation of "an Aryan society." They said they were traveling to a Washington rally to protest government tax policies.

Some of the white supremacists had spent the night in the hotel and others arrived in the morning to join them on the trip to Washington, police said. A large number were from Pennsylvania, Bealefeld said.

"[The attackers] knew they were going to be there," Bealefeld said.

The attackers used some sort of gas grenade - either pepper spray or camouflaging smoke, said officer Troy J. Harris, a police spokesman.

Most of the fighting occurred in the parking lot the hotel, located in a travel plaza east of Interstates 95 and 895.

Assaults also occurred in the lobby and rooms on the eighth floor of the hotel, where many of the victims had rented three rooms, police said. Some damage to the rooms resulted, police said. Hotel officials declined to comment.

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