While 400 people attended the opening day of the St. Louis Jewish Film Festival at Plaza Frontenac on Sunday, a group of protesters stood on the sidewalks in front of the shopping mall holding anti-Semitic signs and pickets and a flag bearing a swastika, according to police and eyewitnesses.
"Around 15 members of the National Socialist Movement were holding signs with anti-Semitic slogans and chanting," said Frontenac Police Chief Thomas Berman.
Berman said Frontenac and Ladue police were on hand to watch the protesters and monitor the inside and outside of the mall during the Jewish Film Festival event. The protesters remained on public property, and no arrests were made, Berman said.
Zelda Sparks, cultural arts director of the Jewish Community Center, the sponsor of the film festival, said the film festival's opening went on without incident, and said many people attending the event were unaware of the demonstrators, who stood along Lindbergh, just south of Clayton Road.
Lois Horwitz said she saw the demonstrators as she left the film festival, driving toward Lindbergh from Plaza Frontenac's parking garage.
Horwitz said her first thought was that the demonstrators were from the MUNY, doing promotions for The Producers, a satire whose plot presents a parodic musical about Nazi Germany. When she realized the demonstration was not a parody, she said she was shocked.
"I went to Clayton High School. I never saw any anti-Semitism in my life," Horwitz said. "To actually be in Frontenac and Ladue and see what you see in news reels, is unnerving. It was really shocking."
Karen Aroesty, director of the Anti-Defamation League for Missouri and Southern Illinois said once she heard about the demonstration, she alerted the authorities and film festival officials.
Aroesty said Neo-Nazi groups are active in Missouri and occasionally hold demonstrations. In December 2006, a small group of picketers marched along Schuetz Road in front of the Jewish Federation Kopolow Building holding signs questioning the Holocaust.
Aroesty said the best course of action when confronted with anti-Semitic demonstrators is to "not engage them in any way." "It's best to ignore them. They're on the fringe, and they need to stay that way," said Aroesty.
Here and here are the message boards where the neo-Nazis planned their protest.