The Klan Must Be Confronted,
(Memphis, Tenn.) — The organizers of an anti-Klan protest say they have First Amendment rights to confront the white supremacist group when it comes here for a rally on March 30, and the right to hold on an alternative rally of their own at the same location.
The Ida B. Wells Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality, a multiracial group, is sponsoring the anti-Klan protest. The coalition is awaiting the city’s decision on its request for a permit to hold a rally on March 30 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in front of the Shelby County Courthouse. The city has approved the request of the Loyal White Knights for a permit to hold a rally at the courthouse from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The coalition had previously filed a request for a permit to hold a protest in front of City Hall at 125 N. Main St. from noon to 2 p.m. The request was denied. Coalition members were told a cultural event had already been scheduled on March 30 in front of City Hall at the same time. proposed for the coalition’s protest, according to the Downtown Memphis Development Commission, which has a management contract with the city to control events at the Mid-America Mall area (in front of City Hall).
A spokesperson for the coalition, JoNina Ervin, said: “Even though we doubted that it was ever true about the cultural event and that a civilian agency like the DMDC has no right to rule on citizens’ First Amendment rights, we had no choice but to reapply. The city’s Permits Office refused to accept our permit application unless we changed locations.”
In February, the Memphis City Council changed the names of the three Confederate parks in downtown Memphis, including one named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Klan’s first grand wizard. At their rally on March 30, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan will protest the name changes for the parks.
“We object to the fact that the Klan was not required to submit any bond or make any declaration concerning being responsible for violence from fomenting their racist rhetoric. Furthermore, the person who actually applied for the permit on behalf of the Klan does not live in Memphis, but in Southaven, Mississippi,” Ervin said.
The Klan is responsible for nearly 150 years of lynching, raping, beating, torturing, and harassing black people, and remains a violent terrorist group. “Spokespersons for the Klan have issued threats and even promised to plant persons among the crowd with guns and may provoke an incident with protesters strictly to use violence, as was done in Greensboro, N.C., in 1979, where five anti-Klan protesters were shot and killed,” Ervin said.
“Under such conditions, Memphis officials could have refused the Klan’s permit, claiming a clear and present danger. Instead, city officials have chosen to hinder the First Amendment rights of everyone else by passing new regulations which restrict our rights to confront the Klan and to protest in the future,” Ervin continued.
“Nevertheless, the Klan has its freedom of speech, and city officials have given Klan members permission to hold a rally where they will promote their white supremacist views in a majority black city. They were even given special privileges to apply for and put on this event. What’s more, they will have massive police protection while they do it.”
Ervin referred to efforts by city officials and local civil rights and business leaders to convince the public that a direct anti-Klan protest at the downtown Courthouse on March 30 is “wrong,” as opposed to a “celebration of the diversity of Memphis” that will be held near the Liberty Bowl football stadium.
“Officials are just coddling the Ku Klux Klan and want them to be able to protest unimpeded by citizen protest, and to blame anti-Klan protesters for any fallout. The Ida B. Wells Coalition has just as much right to freedom of speech as the Klan does. The mayor and the police cannot provide the Klan with their First Amendment rights and arbitrarily deny us ours.
“Nor can they assemble an army of police officers and erect barricades downtown to prevent citizens from voicing our complaints against the city’s ever having given the Klan a permit and everything the Klan stands for. We have a right to confront the Klan for their views,” Ervin said.
If you live in or near Memphis:
Contact The Ida B. Wells Coalition Against Racism and Police Brutality, c/o Black Autonomy Copwatch
P.O. Box 16382-0382
Memphis, TN. 38186-0362
If you do not live in Memphis and would like to coordinate ride-shares from other parts of the country, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The FaceBook event page is named Anti-Klan Demonstration in Memphis, Tennessee, USA!!
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