“It was terrifying,” said one speaker at today’s press conference in Charlottesville, Virginia. “It needs to not happen again.” She was talking, of course, about the tear gas and police violence that occurred immediately after the rally of the “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” She was not talking about the Klan itself. The Klan was underwhelming. The cops were not.
“Cops and Klan go hand in hand” was a favorite chant at the rally.
The Charlottesville police have come under heavy criticism for their role in protecting the Klan, then initiating the violence that occurred in the small city on Saturday, July 8, 2017. The KKK appeared as a tiny group that day in one tiny corner of “Justice Park.” The group of about 30 KKK members, some in white robes and some in purple or red robes, donning their pointy hats of racism, were almost entirely drowned out and overwhelmed by a force of about 1,500 anti-racist activists. The activists were with Black Lives Matter, racial justice groups, antifascist activists, and others who showed up to chant and create a “wall of noise,” effectively keeping the self-proclaimed “knights” from speaking.
No one could hear the Klan over activists who were shouting, playing music, and banging pots and pans. Several Klan members didn’t even pretend to listen to the speeches. Instead, they gave Nazi salutes and strutted, challenging the crowd to fights from the safe comfort of behind a police line. Hundreds of police, many in riot gear, protected the few Klan members present. I guess any kitten will roar like a lion, when protected by hundreds of riot cops. After attempting to make speeches on a speaker system barely louder than a portable stereo, the group left after a meek half hour.
The police then protected the Klan, pushing and assaulting activists and making arrests. They kicked someone in the face. They pushed activists with their riot shields with no warning whatsoever. After declaring the assembly unlawful less than 15 minutes after the Klan had departed, the police then released three tear gas canisters, causing widespread panic, trauma, and physical pain.
“Charlottesville residents can’t clear out of a Dave Matthews show in under an hour, yet the police declared a peaceful crowd to be an unlawful assembly within minutes of the KKK’s departure,” said Emily Gorcenski, a member of Solidarity Cville, to the local NBC station. “This is an ineffective police strategy that only leads to escalation and the likelihood of violence.”
The police certainly did the Klan’s dirty work.
The irony is that the Klan is dying. The Loyal White Knights is, by its own description, “the most active Klan in America,” yet they can barely draw this tiny crowd of racist coneheads in wrinkled gowns.
Hilariously, not even local racists were impressed. Kyle Printz, 74, said that the Klan looked “really weak,” according to The Guardian. Printz, who showed up to the event wearing a Confederate flag hat, also said he was unimpressed by the Klan’s costumes and thought they were making the Confederate flag “look bad.”
Chris Barker, the dysfunctional and violent leader of the Loyal White Knights, couldn’t appear at the Saturday rally at all. He would have violated his bail of $75,000, which prevents him from leaving Caswell and Rockingham counties in North Carolina. He has been arrested over 50 times, including several times for beating his wife. After being involved in a stabbing and probable attempted murder of another Klansman, Barker was charged with “aiding and abetting assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury,” according to The New York Times.
The KKK, while it is still dangerous, has not quite seen the resurgence one might expect in Trump’s America. Oh, the racism is getting more dangerous. And the calls for a “white homeland” are there, too. Make no mistake, in the Trump Era, the racism has definitely come out of the shadows. But it’s not the KKK that is seeing its numbers swell. It is the other groups, attached to the so-called “Alt Right,” that seem to be gaining followers with their racist calls for their white homeland, and desperate lunges to retain whatever white-boy privilege they have left.
The rally had been billed as the event of the year for the Klan. But the paltry KKK group wasn’t who represented a danger to our freedom. No, it was the police who violated our liberty. Nice to know that Charlottesville activists are courageous enough to take their police force to task.