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Nazis in South Dakota. KNBN-TV

Neo-Nazis unfurl swastika flag on Capitol steps in Pierre

Argus Leader
June 9, 2024

Area: Sioux Falls (Mitchell)

PIERRE, South Dakota - Neo-Nazi group "Blood Tribe" claims responsibility. A group of extremists unfurled a Nazi flag during an apparent rally Saturday on the steps of South Dakota's state capitol building in Pierre.

Pictures taken by onlookers and shared on social media depict a group of at least 15 individuals wearing red shirts, black masks and black pants standing in front of the capitol entrance, with three Nazi supporters holding the flag.

Christopher Pohlhaus, leader of Blood Tribe, a neo-Nazi group, claimed his members were responsible for the display in a hostile response to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem's statement on the situation.

DPS spokesperson Brad Reiners confirmed the attempted rally occurred, but he would not say whether the Blood Tribe was responsible for the demonstration when asked late Saturday evening.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Blood Tribe is a neo-Nazi group which depicts itself as a hardcore white supremacist group and reveres Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler as a deity.

Reiners said the group did not have a permit to organize the attempted rally. He added South Dakota Highway Patrol officers gave them orders to disperse as a result, to which they immediately complied.

Reiners said the group had been chanting something at the scene, but it is not currently known exactly what they said. It is also unknown how long they had been there.

No charges have been filed in relation to the event, he said.Another group of people wearing red shirts, black pants and black masks, led by two individuals bearing a flag with apparent Nazi symbolism, were also spotted Saturday in downtown Deadwood by residents.

South Dakota State Auditor Rich Sattgast was part of a small group of people who chanced upon the Nazi supporters. He took photos of the assembled protesters, which depict them wearing shirts with the words "Blood Tribe" written on their back.

"We did not engage with them at all, other than vocally," Sattgast told the Argus Leader during a late Saturday night phone interview. "The law enforcement of Deadwood were fantastic. They stepped into segregate the groups, because as we're walking down the street, more and more people are coming out of the casinos to join in to protest this group."

As the grandson of one of the first people to enter Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp, and as the son of a World War II veteran, Sattgast's main reaction to the hateful demonstrations in Pierre and Deadwood was one of "disgust."

"For people to think that this is an ideology that they can push forward is anti-American," Sattgast said. "We in the United States value the ability to discuss and have differences, but not to the point where we're celebrating a legacy that murdered millions of people."

According to the ADL, Blood Tribe has held various protests across the country since at least March 2023. The group typically wears bright red shirts or vests and performs Hitler salutes and "white power" chants. In some events, members are armed with rifles and handguns.

In September, the Blood Tribe joined several other neo-Nazi groups in organizing similar hate marches near Orlando, Florida, according to NBC.

Gov. Kristi Noem addressed the situation on her personal X account.

"Nazis are not welcome here in South Dakota," Noem wrote. "We stand on the shoulders of generations of Americans who have fought for the Freedom of all — here and abroad. We stand for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We reject all hatred and Nazis. Full stop."

In a separate post, Pohlhaus mocked House Bill 1076, a piece of legislation recently signed by Noem, which legally defined anti-semitism in state law, while directing a derogatory remark toward Jewish rabbis.

The definition adopted language used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which defines anti-semitism as “a certain perception of Jews that may be expressed as hatred toward Jews, including rhetorical and physical acts of antisemitism directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals or their property, or toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

In a statement to the Argus Leader, the Sioux Falls branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called on state authorities and law enforcement to conduct an investigation into the incident and "to hold accountable anyone found to be complicit in allowing this display to occur."

"The presence of such individuals in a place meant to symbolize democracy and inclusion is unacceptable," the NAACP statement read. "The infiltration of Nazis into our public spaces is not just an isolated incident but a glaring indication of a larger, more systemic issue of rising hate and intolerance."

The display comes two days after the 80th anniversary of D-Day, a crucial battle against Axis forces during World War II. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, approximately 2,400 Americans had been killed during the landings on Normandy Beach.

State House Majority Leader Will Mortenson, who lives in Fort Pierre, a city adjacent to the state capitol, also commented on the situation.

"I don't know what rock they crawled out from under, but they aren't welcome here," he said. "Time to move along."

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