Strapped with a sidearm, carrying an Arizona flag, and wearing a golf cap and ink-black sunglasses, the neo-Nazi insisted that he not be referred to as a Nazi of any sort. "I'm a National Socialist!" he declared proudly.
Though he would reveal his name only as "Harry," this particular neo-Nazi is known as "Vandal" on his Yahoo profile, where he lists late white supremacist leader William Pierce's racist, dystopian novel The Turner Diaries and Tenney Davis' The Chemistry of Powder and Explosives as two of his favorite books. Vandal waited patiently on the sidewalk near Tent City on May 2 as thousands of marchers approached Joe Arpaio's vast incarceration complex to protest the 287(g) program that empowers the sheriff to enforce federal immigration law.
More polite than his nativist compatriots in groups such as United for a Sovereign America and Riders Against Illegal Aliens, Vandal was just as virulently committed to Arpaio and his anti-immigration policies as his heavy-handed colleagues.
The issue, he claimed, is that the United States is giving "preferential treatment" to Mexican immigrants over American citizens.
Asked whether he thought the sheriff wanted him and a gaggle of, well, neo-Nazis confronting anti-Joe protesters in the "Walk for Respect," Vandal said: "He needs our support."
Standing nearby was J.T. Ready, ex-Mesa City Council candidate, former Republican precinct committeeman, and erstwhile associate of State Senator Russell Pearce. Ready was waving a huge Confederate flag and wiping imaginary "Mexcrement," as he called it, onto a real Mexican tricolor on the ground.
Ready is the most infamous neo-Nazi in Maricopa County, known for handing out anti-Semitic screeds at Republican Party functions, for his activism in anti-immigration circles, and for his occasional run-ins with law enforcement, which have included getting arrested in 2007 for driving with fictitious plates on his black Chevy Impala and possessing a pre-emption emitter, which allows him to bypass red lights. Also in his car at the time were a 9-millimeter Beretta, white-power literature, and binoculars.
"Obama's not my president," Ready told New Times as he flitted from topic to topic, waiting with Vandal for the arrival of the marchers. "He's ZOG's president."
ZOG is neo-Nazi shorthand for Zionist Occupation Government, the fictitious Jewish conspiracy that some neo-Nazis believe controls the United States. Ready continued his wide-ranging diatribe, segueing not very subtly into why he believes pogroms against Jews in Europe's past were a good thing.
"They [had] to expel an alien that's preying upon them. [They were] parasites," said Ready, a former Marine who was twice court-martialed and expelled from the military with a bad-conduct discharge. "C'mon, that's healthy. It's only when you're unhealthy that you've got parasites on you."
When New Times asked Ready whether he hated all Mexicans, he offered another dehumanizing metaphor: "I don't hate all of anything. I don't hate all scorpions, but I wouldn't want them crawling around in my house."
Ready then bragged about how Sheriff Arpaio had stopped by earlier in the day, said hello, and even called him by name. Another neo-Nazi, using the handle "Vito Lombardi," excitedly related how a photo was taken of him and his hero, Arpaio.
The conversation was cut short by the anti-Arpaio demonstrators, led by rock musician Zack de la Rocha, who were making their way east on Durango Street, from 35th Avenue toward Tent City.
The neo-Nazis were the first to encounter the mostly Hispanic protesters, saluting them with Nazi sieg heils, enraging them with Mexican flag-stomping, and haranguing them with cries of "scum," "murderers," and "rapists."
The Phoenix Police Department was out in full force to make sure violence didn't erupt between the neo-Nazis and nativists — many of whom displayed firearms — on one side of the street and the pro-immigration crowd on the other.
Still, the ugliness was pervasive, whether it was U.S.A. members holding placards linking Mexicans to diseases such as swine flu (many in the pro-Joe crowd wore surgical masks), or Vito Lombardi and J.T. Ready's teaming up to bait a local musician because they believed him to be Jewish.
After the march, it was revealed through an image posted on the white supremacist message board Stormfront.org that the neo-Nazi calling himself Lombardi really had scored his fanboy snapshot with Joe Arpaio. Indeed, the sheriff had stopped beside the neo-Nazis in an unmarked black sedan before the throng of anti-MCSO protesters arrived.
Captured on video and posted on YouTube (view here) by nativist Lynne Stevens (known online as "Jackie40d"), the sheriff speaks with the neo-Nazis briefly, allows them to take photos, and even gives them a little intelligence on the marchers.
The marchers "won't be here for an hour," he informs them in the video, which has now been viewed more than 800 times on Stevens' rarely watched YouTube channel.