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Contextualizing the Neo-Nazi displays in South Dakota


An organization that monitors hate groups says an attempted neo-Nazi rally at the South Dakota state Capitol is like others that have popped up around the country.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says this particular group has worked to expand in the region.

The group, which is not being named in this story, brought around 20 masked neo-Nazis to Pierre and Deadwood over the weekend.

Jeff Tischauser is a senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Over his career, he has watched this group closely and said they have a foothold in the region.

“It is not too surprising that they selected South Dakota based on the location of some of the alleged members," Tischauser said. "They call it the so-called “Upper Midwest chapter,” and to them that means Wisconsin, Minnesota, both of the Dakotas, Iowa and Nebraska. They have a fairly active chapter.”

He said while these displays are occurring nationwide, this particular brand of antisemitic activity isn’t necessarily linked to the recent conflict in Gaza.

“Unfortunately, it’s happening too much across the United States – South Dakota is just the latest place they’ve targeted, Tischauser said. "It’s something we expect them to keep doing, particularly in an election year. It just gives them media coverage. Has there been more of these rallies since Oct. 7? It’s just about the same amount. They’re just now being able to project even more antisemitism.”

With this display in the state’s collective memory now, Tischauser said hate is defeated by good neighbors.

“The best thing that we can do as a community is to talk about it, to mention it in conversations with each other," Tischauser said. "To point to it and say, ‘this is not welcome here.’ Share stories of what harm these groups bring and how they’re trying to divide us, right?”

Several state officials and lawmakers, including Gov. Kristi Noem and Sen. Mike Rounds, have denounced the group's actions.

That includes Watertown Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch. Deutsch comes from a Jewish background and described the incident in no uncertain terms.

“It was the most despicable display I’ve ever seen in Pierre," Deutsch said. "It was disgusting. I think these people need to go back home, climb under the rock they came out of and stay there.”

Last legislative session, Deutsch worked to pass a bill legally defining antisemitism in state code. However, he said the bill wouldn’t apply in this situation.

“The law is meant for situations where there’s employment discrimination, other forms of discrimination, that has to do with antisemitism," Deutsch said. "So, that wasn’t really applicable to the law. It’s just despicable that they have to come here and make people fearful.”

Deutsch's bill goes into effect July 1.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture