Approximately 20 neo-Nazis marched up State Street to the Wisconsin State Capitol building Saturday.
The group marched up State Street before holding a rally on Capitol Square, where they posed with swastika flags, gave Nazi salutes, and chanted antisemitic slogans, including “Israel is not our friend” and “there will be blood.” The group then marched to James Madison Park and stopped at a nearby synagogue.
Emmi Cohen, a Jewish Israeli graduate exchange student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, witnessed the neo-Nazi group marching near James Madison Park while having a picnic with her friends.
“It was completely surreal to see them doing this on a Saturday morning through a park where kids are hanging out,” Cohen said. “It's very clear that their goal is to make people feel terrified and intimidated and frightened.”
Cohen said the group's presence added to a sense of isolation she has felt since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, which has led to incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia in the U.S.
"It just added to the feeling that there's so much hate directed toward the group I'm part of, and it's not being taken seriously," Cohen said.
A representative for the Madison Police Department (MPD) told The Daily Cardinal that police were aware of the protest but did not take any action because the group did not break any laws.
In a statement posted on MPD’s Facebook page, the department said it “does not support hateful rhetoric.”
“The department has an obligation to protect First Amendment rights of all,” MPD said in the statement.
The members were part of the neo-Nazi group Blood Tribe, which was founded online in 2020 by former Marine Christopher Pohlhaus and has since grown to include semi-autonomous chapters across the United States and Canada. Pohlhaus was present at the rally Saturday.
In July, the group protested an LGBTQ Pride event in Watertown, Wis.
UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin said in a statement Saturday the presence of this group in Madison is "utterly repugnant."
“I am horrified to see these symbols here in Madison," Mnookin said. "Hatred and antisemitism are completely counter to the university’s values, and the safety and well-being of our community must be our highest priorities."
In response, UW-Madison's Office of Student Affairs will hold a Campus Connection & Support session at 3 p.m. on Nov. 19 in Memorial Union's Main Lounge for university students and staff affected by the rally, Mnookin announced.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers denounced the group in a statement Saturday, calling the rally “truly revolting.”
“Neo-Nazis, antisemitism and white supremacy have no home in Wisconsin,” Evers said in the statement. “We will not accept or normalize this rhetoric and hate.”
Editor's note: This story was updated at 6:03 p.m. on Nov. 18 to include UW-Madison's announcement of a Campus Connection & Support session on Nov. 19.
Francesca Pica is the city news editor for The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple municipal elections and is a leading reporter on Madison labor issues. Additionally, she will serve as a news intern for The Capital Times throughout the summer of 2023.