Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear on Wednesday decried plans by the National Socialist Movement, a Michigan-based white pride group, to rally outside the state Capitol later this month.
"The Constitution affords the right to free speech and free assembly to all, and we will respect those rights, even for this Michigan-based hate-filled group," Beshear said in a statement. "This group should know that their ideology is reprehensible to Kentuckians, and that Kentucky is a tolerant, progressive and welcoming state for all people."
According to a flier, the National Socialist Movement said the April 21 event will address "illegal immigration, crime, the recession, White Civil Rights, and other critical issues facing our Nation." It is scheduled to last from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
A phone call to the group's Detroit-based headquarters and an email to Kentucky-based chapters were not returned Wednesday.
On its Web site, nsm88.org, the group posted a video featuring the state's "Welcome to Kentucky: Unbridled Spirit" logo.
Sandra E. Coy submitted a rally application on Jan. 17. Coy listed her title as "KY East Coordinator, National Socialists Movement" and described the purpose of the group as "protest against illegal immigration."
Coy listed the group's address as "703 3rd St., Shelbyville" which is also the address of farm supply company Bob's Hay Barn, where Coy is listed as manager in various business social media groups. According to its articles of incorporation, the business is owned by Marvin Leighton Sparrow, also known as Marvin Bob Sparrow. No one answered the phone at Bob's Hay Barn late Wednesday or at Sparrow's residence.
According to the group's application to the Finance & Administration Cabinet, they expect about 200 people to "march up to the Capitol steps and give several speeches on illegal immigration and what it is doing to America."
The group said no one attending will carry firearms or bring animals onto state property.
The application was approved by the Finance & Administration Cabinet's Division of Historic Properties, which has not denied any applications in the last seven years unless the date requested conflicted with a previously scheduled event, according to the cabinet.
State officials are prohibited from selectively enforcing the rules for using the Capitol grounds based on "age, race, national origin, disability and religion or partisan politics."
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups nationally, said on its Web site that the National Socialist Movement, headed by Jeff Schoep, is a prominent neo-Nazi group "that specializes in theatrical and provocative protests."
Until 2007, the group protested in full Nazi uniforms but now wears black "Battle Dress Uniforms."
In December 2005, the group marched through a black neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio, sparking a riot. Increasingly, according to the SPLC, the group has focused on immigration, including going on armed "patrols" in the Arizona desert.
The group said on its Web site that it now has members on patrol in Sanford., Fla., the town where an unarmed black youth, Trayvon Martin, was killed last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. Late Wednesday, a Florida special prosecutor announced Zimmerman is in custody and will be charged with second-degree murder in the case.
Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said Wednesday that she did not know if the Kentucky State Police plan to have an increased presence at the Capitol rally.