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Army of four goes home

MORE THAN a thousand police stood in the blazing sun, guarding the strategic points of Washington DC on Saturday. They had come to secure the nation's capital against the American Nationalist Party, a neo-Nazi group. It had pledged to send its iron legions to march through the city. There were all four of them, as it turned out.

Those four arrived, saw the strength of the anti-fascist forces that were already in place as counter-protests assembled, and decided that this was not the day for a putsch. They went home again.

The city's police chief was furious. All leave had been cancelled to mount an operation on the same scale as the security cordon during the Nato summit. It cost more than a million dollars. It was a huge triumph for DC United to Stop the Nazis, the group that led demonstrations against the march, but also raised some issues about the Nazis in question.

The ANP is an odd body, to say the least. It claims a membership of perhaps 10,000; independent research groups put its active core at about 150.

Its putative Fuhrer, who has described himself as "absolute, supreme dictator", is David Wolfgang Hawke, 20, a student in South Carolina. Mr Hawke is better known to his parents as Andrew Greenbaum: his family are Jewish. He claims that his father was German, but disappeared somewhere along the way, rather like his army of followers.

The DC Police chief, Charles Ramsey, wants to sue Mr Hawke/Greenbaum and his followers. "I don't care if they have no money," he said. "We still should sue them. I'll take their gym shoes."

He might do better to take their modems: the group has made its name on the Internet.Perhaps, in the future, it might stick to virtual marches.