PHOENIX — One of the country's most prominent Neo-Nazi groups says they plan to protest in Phoenix in mid-April.
The National Socialist Movement (NSM) is a hate group that "specializes in theatrical and provocative protests," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"They are the largest and most explicitly Neo-Nazi group in the United States," said Tammy Gillies, ADL's Regional Director over Arizona. "They want what they call a 'greater America.' And would deny citizenship to Jews, non-whites, and anyone from the LGBTQ community."
The organization typically holds a large gathering once a year.
"The goal is likely two-fold," said Gillies. "It’s for recruitment and it’s to let the community know that they are here, and these are their beliefs."
Some experts say it is also about provoking a reaction and creating a spectacle.
"NSM is your perpetual victim," said Matt Browning, a former Mesa police detective who infiltrated White Supremacist gangs as an undercover.
"They are antagonistic, and they want the counter protesters to attack them so that they are the victim. 'Please punch me in the face so I can be a martyr for NSM.'"
In 2010 that is exactly what happened. A relatively small group of the swastika-wearing men and women gathered in downtown Phoenix. They were met by a counter-protest that escalated the tension and violence.
Counter-protesters, identifying themselves as anti-fascists, were pepper-sprayed by police as they threw rocks at the NSM members and officers surrounding them.
ABC15 reported at the time that multiple people were injured and hospitalized, two officers were hurt, and two people were arrested.
There is concern history may repeat itself, as local left-wing activists are already planning a counter-protest for April.
"We are going to resist their hate. We are going to make it known that we do not want them in our area," said one counter-protester, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being doxed by NSM members.
The Neo-Nazi group knows they have free-speech rights, but the City of Phoenix says they have yet to apply for a permit. If they gather without one, the protest could quickly be declared an unlawful assembly.
"It’s a recipe for destruction," said Browning.
Browning believes the City of Phoenix should deny the group a permit. "Cancel their permit," he said. "You have to look at the potential for violence. That potential outweighs everything else."