Klan rally fizzles under public scrutiny
by Sheila Musaji
Addicting Information reported that The Statesville Record & Landmark newspaper in North Carolina had published a KKK rally flier on their front page on 5/23. They include a copy of the actual front page with the ad. When I saw this, my first reaction was one of disgust. It was hard to believe that I was actually seeing something like this in 2012.
The newspaper published this online story about the event
The Ku Klux Klan is planning a rally and cross-burning in northern Iredell County on Saturday.
Flyers advertising the Harmony-area rally specify “white people only” and say it is a “white unity event.” Eden-based Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is organizing the rally on private property at an undisclosed address.
A call placed to the number listed on the flyer was answered by a machine. The male voice on the machine said the rally is not about hate and said “Save our land, join the Klan,” and concluded with the words, “If it ain’t white, it ain’t right.” A message left by the R&L on the machine was not returned as of Tuesday evening.
Skip McCall, president of the Statesville Branch of the NAACP, said while he is disappointed to learn that such ideals are still being espoused, the KKK has the same rights to free speech as anyone else. “I may not agree with what they say but I will defend to the death their right to say it,” he said. He said the racial division promoted by the KKK is a distraction to the NAACP’s mission of eradicating racial division.
Woody Woodard, the former president of the local NAACP chapter, said he had not seen the flyers but he isn’t concerned about the rally. “I don’t think anybody I know would get excited about it,” he said.
According to the information on the flyers, the event will take place at an undisclosed location near Harmony on Saturday and will include a cross-lighting at dusk.
Capt. Darren Campbell of the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office said deputies are aware of the rally but will not have a presence there unless called for service. “It’s on private property,” he said, adding that law enforcement cannot be on the property unless a crime is committed. “Our officers are aware in case any problems should arise,” he said. “But they have not asked for any assistance for us. They have not reached out to us.”
Woodard said he believes this is the first instance of any organized Klan activity in Iredell County in the past 20 years. There were a couple of marches through downtown Statesville in either the late 1980s or early 1990s, he said. There were no significant problems at those marches, Woodard said. He said he hopes the Saturday rally will fade off into history as did those marches. “My personal hope is they have their rally and nobody comes. That would be good for Iredell County, good for North Carolina and good for the nation,” he said.
After looking into this a little, I discovered that the paper had also published an editorial on 5/23 titled Evil in our midst can’t be ignored explaining their decision:
If someone had asked you on Tuesday if the Ku Klux Klan was active in Iredell County, chances are, your answer would have been a resounding “No.”
That is why we made the difficult decision to publish an article in Wednesday’s paper about a KKK rally and cross burning planned in Harmony on Saturday.
Here is the reality.
The Ku Klux Klan is one of our nation’s oldest and most violent hate groups. Its members preach a message of ignorance and discrimination that targets so many people in our community.
We will not ignore it, and we will not shelter our readers from the discomfort of having to confront racism in their midst.
It was painful to see the words “KKK” and “White people only” and a drawing of men in white hoods on the front page of our newspaper.
Many of you have shared very emotional and heartfelt comments with us about why you wish we hadn’t written a story ... published the flyer ... put it on the front page.
It was a decision we made together as a newsroom — people of all ages and races and backgrounds — and it is one we are proud of.
You need to see what hate looks like in 2012. You need to have the same painful and emotional reaction we did when we saw that poster and its masked men carrying burning crosses.
In our lifetimes, the Klan has marched on downtown streets through Statesville. In our lifetimes, the Klan has spread terror and hate here and across our nation. In our lifetimes, the Klan has been responsible for murders and beatings and rapes.
That is the reality — the ugly, terrible reality. We will not ignore it.
And, on the day of the scheduled rally, the paper published another editorial True strength is in our unity
In the days since we published a story and flyer informing Iredell County residents about a rally planned today by the Ku Klux Klan near Harmony, we have heard from readers feeling deep pain, anger, outrage and fear.
Some of that was directed at us, mostly by those who saw the KKK’s flyer on our front page and felt we gave them a platform. Were second chances allowed in life, we would have gone to much greater lengths to ensure everyone understood we ran the flyer as an emotion-provoking call to action against the KKK, not to give the hate group, even inadvertently, any publicity.
The majority of anger we’ve heard and seen has been directed exactly where it belongs — at the men and women who choose to rally in the name of evil. We’ve also received much support for opening the eyes of many in the community who thought KKK rallies here were a thing of the distant past.
It has been amazing to see how Iredell County has come together to make sure the KKK hears loud and clear that we value love, equality and peace for our neighbors here. There are at least five peaceful rallies and services planned for Saturday, all in an attempt to unite — rather than divide — our community.
It is our fervent wish that Saturday will be a day of peace, and that everyone attending one of the unity events will remember the true message — love that knows no boundaries.
Our biggest hope is that the KKK members planning to rally will have been dissuaded by the many who have spoken out, and will not gather here. But even if they do come to Harmony, those who have gathered in protest must do all they can to ensure any interactions are peaceful.
There is no stronger message to send than people of all races, religions and other differences coming together to show that, in Iredell County, those differences only make us stronger.
A local news source WBTV reports that
About a hundred protestors descended on the small town of Harmony Saturday afternoon.
The group held signs reading “Peace and Love” and other messages of dislike of the thought of the Klu Klux Klan holding a rally there.
Imperial Wizard Chris Barker told WBTV earlier this week that the group chose Harmony because a member of the group lives there and has 20-acres that is private and big enough for the expected crowd.
One of the protest organizers, Barbara O’Bryan, says she was supposed to meet with Barker but then learned the rally was moved out of town.
“A lot of people said ignore the Klan..don’t give them attention. But I’m tired of ignoring hatred and I like to think this did make a difference because they decided to move to Virginia because they weren’t welcome in Harmony,” O’Bryan said.
Whisperings of where the rally was supposed to be held left many folks wanting a peek. WBTV watched as locals and out-of-towners scrambled to find the spot. It caused quite a headache for some residents who watched their quiet surroundings turn into a circus. WBTV went by one of the spots locals say they saw numerous cars come and go throughout the afternoon. A crew did spot people in KKK shirts but were told the rally wasn’t being held there. ... On Wednesday, Barker wouldn’t go into specifics as to where the rally was actually being held. He would only say that the event is slated to start around noon and last until around 10 p.m. Calls to Barker Saturday about the move to Virginia were not returned.
It appears that in the end, the KKK wasn’t ready to face the obvious anger directed towards them by decent members of the local community. Their rally was moved to some location disclosed only to other bigots.
I still think that the Statesville Record could have handled this better, and made it clear right on their front page that they were not promoting this KKK rally. Nevertheless, after all of the events played out, it appears at least possible that shining a bright light on such bigotry may be one of the best strategies to fight it. They wear hoods over their faces, not to frighten other people, but because deep down they are ashamed of their bigotry.