By T.J. Jerke/Forum News Service
LEITH, N.D. -- More than 300 protesters filled the gravel roads in this town southwest of Bismarck on Sunday to rally against a visit by a leader of a white nationalist group and efforts to turn the town of 16 residents into an all-white enclave.
Mayor Ryan Schlock said he loved the number of protesters and more than 30 law enforcement officers - including 14 in full riot gear - that kept order as the protesters chanted and cheered outside the town hall while white supremacist leader Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement fielded questions about his visit and Craig Cobb’s plan for the town where he has been buying up property.
"I don't have to go down there and argue with him," Schlock said standing two blocks from the town hall. "I have 300 that can speak for me. "
Grant County Sheriff Steve Bay said he took a proactive approach to Sunday’s meeting, which was evident as soon as someone drove to town. Bay had all the town roads blocked with gates and law enforcement vehicles.
"If something looks like it's going to happen, we’ll take care of it," Bay said earlier in the day.
As protesters held handmade signs, more than 20 different nationalist-related flags, such as the Nazi and Confederate flags, flew outside Cobb’s house, where he and Schoep fielded questions.
Spectators, such as Jim Chyle of Park River, also filled the streets. Chyle said his curiosity brought him to town.
"I think people have a right to do what they want to do, but I'm hoping there's another side to it than the side that's been getting all the Attention," he said about the racist message to Cobb’s plans.