A cold rain, massive law enforcement presence, and a malfunctioning bullhorn put a damper on a Ku Klux Klan rally of about 75 people protesting the renaming of Civil War parks including the one named for Nathan Bedford Forrest Saturday.
The group arrived in two city buses and gathered in front of the Shelby County Courthouse. They were enclosed by a chain-link fence and a line of uniformed police officers and sheriff’s deputies. There was no room to march, and members were not allowed to stand on the upper steps of the courthouse, so they crowded together on the sidewalk and lower steps.
Nearby streets were blocked off as they are during a presidential visit. Members of the media were corralled behind yellow tape across the street, and a group of protesters were similarly separated at the other end of the street, out of earshot of the Klan group. There was no interaction, and other than periodic shouts of “white power” it was nearly impossible to tell what the Klan speakers were saying. One sheriff’s assistant chief said the group did not have batteries for their bullhorn.
The law enforcement response was overwhelming, starting hours before the rally, which began about 2:30 p.m. There were hundreds of officers in riot gear, scores of vehicles, canine units, horse-mounted units, TACT units, armored vehicles, motorcycles, fire trucks, mobile command posts, and enough firepower to repel, or at least mount a fair challenge, to General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Virginia.
The purpose of the rally, such as it was, was hard to discern. A single sympathizer, a woman, carried a sign that said “Save Our Parks.” There were about a dozen Klansmen in robes and hoods — a wise fashion choice in light of the rain — but no masks were allowed. Some of the men wore dark glasses or camouflage hats. About a dozen of them carried flags of the USA, the Klan, and a neo-Nazi group. The speeches began about an hour after the scheduled 1:30 start time. Speakers took turns, but other than the white power chant and some vague denunciations of the “corrupt mayor and city council” it was hard for the assembled media to hear what anyone said.
After the first few speakers finished, several members of the group were smiling and taking photographs of one another, as were the assembled cops. The Klansmen and their friends shut down after less than two hours and boarded the two buses that took them back to the parking lot of The Pyramid.
What a way to spend a Saturday.