Left: NSM members at the aborted October 15 rally in Toledo; photo by historymike
(Toledo, OH) National Socialist Movement (NSM) spokesperson Bill White lashed out at local members of the United Church of Christ in response to the church's plan to develop "peace teams" to be on hand for the return of the NSM on December 10 in Toledo.
Labeling the UCC a "small, heretical sect," White said that the formation of the peace teams to "presumably break the law and disturb the peace in order to stop the National Socialist Movement from saying things the United Church of Christ disagrees with."
The UCC has approximately 1.3 million members in 6,000 churches across the US.
White said that the local Toledo UCC is confronting the NSM over several issues, including "burning of their churchs throughout the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge mountain area" and a "gay UCC activist" who purportedly posted comments at Google News that White is gay.
The pastor of Pilgrim Church UCC, Reverend Larry Cameron, disagreed with White's charges.
"I know absolutely nothing about his claims," he said, declining an invitation from me to email him a link to the website. "The formation of the peace teams is in response to the violence in Toledo on October 15, and our desire to avoid any future violence here in Toledo."
Contrary to White's claims, Cameron said that peace teams are expected to remain completely within the law.
"These peace teams are composed of ordinary people who go through special training in de-escalating violence," he said. "At no point are members of the peace team allowed to break any laws."
Cameron believes that the misconception about peace teams arises from the actions of radical members of the peace movement.
"Perhaps anyone drawing that conclusion is thinking of people chaining themselves to fences, or lying down on roads to block traffic at military bases," he said. "Peace teams are not about that; they work together as a non-anxious presence between groups for which there is the possibility of violence."
White implied in his post that the peace teams will likely disrupt the December 10 rally by "blocking roads and peacefully breaking the law and disturbing the peace." The true goal of a peace team, said White, is to "disrupt the free speech of people it disagrees with."
Cameron, however, denied that any such activity will take place, and described the goal of peace groups as "apolitical."
"All people deserve the right to freedom from violence," he said. "Peace teams do not take sides, and they gather solely for the purpose of helping calm down situations where there is conflict."
Much of the activity of peace teams revolves around dialogue, said Cameron.
"We have found that people are less likely to act in a violent manner when they are talking calmly," he said. "By listening and getting people to calm down, peace teams have been successful in reducing conflict and avoiding violence."
Pastor Cameron added that persons interested in becoming a member of a peace team can attend a training session this Sunday (December 4, 2005) at 12:30 PM. The training will take place at Pilgrim UCC, which is located at 1375 Sylvania Avenue between Jackman and Lewis.