More than 1,000 people rallied in Memphis on Saturday, March 30 to protest the Ku Klux Klan, according to news reports of the event. Many came from across the country, mobilized by a call from a local coalition, the Ida B. Wells Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality. More came from the communities of Memphis, anxious to take a stand, or give their children a lesson in living history. Anti-racists were kept away from an on-going Klan rally by several fences. And the Klan was well-protected by police, who bussed them into a downtown zone, and then bussed them out of town after their rally. Anger at the police for protecting the Klan, nevertheless, did not turn into violence and mar the anti-racist rally—thus turning the event into a significant victory.
The putative Klan rally in Memphis was actually a Klan-Nazi rally, as uniformed members of the National Socialist Movement and the Aryan Nations were part of the 60+ white nationalists who took part. The Loyal White Knights, based in neighboring North Carolina, organized this rally and Klansmen from the North Mississippi White Knights, the Georgia-based Keystone Klan and others also participated. Earlier threats that 5,000 Kluxers would march on Memphis turned into an empty propaganda stunt, as expected. The police effectively cordoned the white-ists off, separating them from potential supporters. And though Klansmen and neo-Nazis alike railed from their bullhorn, no one outside their immediate rally could hear them.
The cause of the Klan-Nazi spectacle was the City of Memphis’ decision to change the names of three parks bearing the names of Confederate and Klan heroes—most particularly the Nathan Bedford Forrest Park bordered by Madison Avenue and N. Dunlop Street in the center of town. Before the Civil War, Forrest owned several plantations and had a business in Memphis as a slave trader. During the war, he became a Confederate cavalry officer. But it was Forrest’s role as a national leader, or Imperial Wizard, of the Ku Klux Klan after the war that drew the attention of the white nationalists. Given the large size of the anti-racist demonstration and the small size of the Klan-Nazi gathering, the Memphis city council would make a big mistake if it was to reconsider changing the name of the local park.
There are still plenty of other Confederate memorials remaining, including a state park honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest in Benton County, Tennessee. And then there are those statues erected in nearly every county seat in the old Confederate South. Nominally erected to commemorate the honor and martyrdom of Confederate Army soldiers, they remain a lasting monument of the inability to remember that the Confederacy’s first principle, written into its Constitution, was white supremacy.
The Ida B. Wells Coalition put out a call before their rally: “For years, the Klan and other racist movements have used the symbols of the Confederacy to unite its movement, especially at the gravesite of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Klan co-founder and its first Grand Wizard. Now, a new movement, the neo-Confederacy, is seeking to restore the Klan’s bloody legacy and that of the Old South. We cannot allow that to happen, we must build a new anti-racist/anti-colonialist movement to defeat all forms of fascism and white supremacy.”
IREHR agrees with the Coalition, particularly on the need for a new anti-racist movement. And we will be glad to add the Tea Party movement to the list of racists to be opposed.
In the vast Potomac Ballroom of the Gaylord hotel in National Harbor, Maryland, the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held March 14-16, started as a well-choreographed effort to present a softer, more diverse, conservative movement. Beyond the main hall, however, the carefully crafted façade melted away. In the many conference rooms that the Tea Party dominated, events featured blatant racism, homophobia, sexism, and Islamophobia. Despite the efforts of organizers to sweep it all under the rug, this year’s CPAC showed a conservative movement riddled with white nationalists, and others long a pillar of the farthest edge of the far right. The conservative sense of white dispossession at the core of this new conservative movement, bore little resemblance to the high and mighty elites of the Reagan and Bush years.
American Conservative Union (ACU) chairman Al Cardenas once said “CPAC is like an ‘All Star’ game for conservatives.” Watching it unfold, however, is less like a ball game and more like surveying the line-up at a Moscow May Day parade during the times of the Soviet Union, if you can push the political ideology out of the picture for a moment. Or like monitoring a north Georgia Klan Labor Day Klan rally in the 1980s. You see who is in and who is out. In that regard, seeing the Tea Party emerge at CPAC 2013 is a little like watching the first time white power skinheads showed up at the Gainesville, Georgia Kluxer event in 1989.
On the eve of the most widely anticipated conservative event of the year, the group responsible for organizing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC 13) has chosen to feature the work of a controversial white nationalist professor on its website.
As of February 27, the American Conservative Union (ACU) website features an article by Dr. Robert Weissberg, a retired University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign political science professor with a second career as a white nationalist. Since the first CPAC conference in 1973, the American Conservative Union has been the principal sponsor of the gathering. ACU has a staff person, Vinh Nguyen, listed as a “CPAC producer.” And ACU’s executive director and chairman call the event to order and provide the initial welcoming remarks. Weissberg’s essay was found on the front page of the ACU’s site, just beneath a big banner advertising CPAC 13.
Based on the uttering of one self-identified “Exalted Cyclops,” a mass of television, internet, and print reporters have declared that Klansmen will be coming to Memphis, Tennessee and protest the renaming of several Confederate memorials in that city. The number “5,000” is usually floated along with this “fact.”
The article below ran in the January 2013 edition of Searchlight, an anti-racist, anti-fascist magazine published monthly in London with international distribution. It analyzes Klan, neo-Nazi and Tea Party activity during 2012, and recounts some of the movement's most violent episodes. At the end, please note the data that points towards problems in the future.
2012: A Year in ReviewBy Leonard Zeskind and Devin Burghart
The year began with whimpers from white nationalists about the decay of their supposed civilization. And it ended with a bang from gunners screaming about their rights after yet another mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. Election year events dominated the ebb and flow of the far right, the racists and the bigots. In between, skinheads and assorted Aryan-types were arrested and convicted in multiple instances of horrific violence.