Marchers protest swastika

ABOVE: A rally against racism, prompted by a flag with a swastika flying on North Mesa Street in Fruita, drew about 70 people on Sunday. BELOW: Several counter-protesters carried a Confederate flag and another bearing the Nazi swastika.

Ashley Petrey was surprised and dismayed to realize Sunday that some World War II and the Civil War battles are still being waged.

The newly minted Fruita resident lives just down the street from a neighbor who recently erected a Nazi-style flag with a swastika, and she's not happy about it. That flag prompted a peaceful protest from about 70 people who marched in front of the home at 269 N. Mesa St. just blocks from downtown Fruita.

"I just moved here two weeks ago, and part of the reason that I moved here was to get away from the violence and the hate of the cities," Petrey said. "(The Nazi flag) represents all of the hate and all of the violence in the world, and it's really sad. It's frustrating because we're supposed to be celebrating Veterans Day, and World War II and the Civil War was literally supposed to defeat all this."

While the protesters chanted anti-Nazi slogans from one side of the street, a handful of people stood in the driveway of the home, some waving at passing cars while others yelled back at the marchers.

Paul DeLancey, who said he was related to the person living in the home who allegedly erected the flag, identified by neighbors as Larry "L.J." Brooks, brought a Confederate flag that he had mounted on his pickup truck. Altogether, there were two Confederate battle flags, one flag with a swastika and an American flag erected at the home.

"It's a lot less than I expected," DeLancey said of the protest. "What's funny is, they say they want to teach tolerance, right. But yet, they're yelling racist remarks, flipping us off, threatening people. How is that tolerant? Aren't they going against the principles they said they were organizing this for?"

Carrying signs, some of which were profane, the marchers walked by the home and later stopped in front of it chanting, "No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist USA."

DeLancey said he decided to come to Colorado to help his family because of threats it had received since The Daily Sentinel published a story on the flag last week.

"I'm from Texas," he said. "I'm here because the baby in this house got threatened, so I drove my happy hiney up here to defend the family, for their right to freedom of speech."

According to Colorado Bureau of InvestigationĀ records, Brooks has a criminal history dating back to 1999. His convictions include felony drug possession, weapons offenses and domestic violence. His social media accounts share white supremacist views, and promote neo-Nazi values.

The march lasted a couple of hours, and was peaceful, with several Fruita Police Department officers on hand to make sure that would remain the case.

Petrey said she was asked by the marchers to be a legal observer of the event, but couldn't resist speaking out herself.

"They're saying, 'You're ignorant to what the Nazis were really about,'" she said. "That just makes my insides die to know that there's people out there that just don't know history. People believe things that are patently untrue because they've not learned otherwise."

But all of that wasn't the most troubling thing to Petrey.

"The disturbing thing were the cars driving by, and honking and waving," she said. "That was the most unsettling thing."

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