Scaring off the Klan in North Carolina

December 6, 2016

Aaron Rothemich, Robert Wilson, Giancarlo M. and Julie Smith report on a series of protests by activists in North Carolina and Virginia against the Ku Klux Klan.

IN PELHAM, North Carolina, the Loyal White Knights chapter of the Ku Klux Klan announced days after Trump's election their plans for a "Victory Klavalcade Klan March." The terrorist group announced their plans to a Raleigh newspaper, revealing only the date, December 3, and that they would be meeting in Pelham.

Trump's racist and xenophobic rhetoric has been celebrated by hateful terrorist groups like the KKK that view his election as a justification to harass oppressed minorities.

Fortunately, there has been an even louder surge of support for oppressed groups and opposition to the hatred and violence of both Trump and hate groups like the Klan.

On the morning of December 3, despite not yet knowing the exact location of the "Klavalcade," hundreds of protesters showed up in Pelham to square off with KKK. After waiting at the rumored starting place for nearly an hour, the large group of protesters took to the streets of Pelham to make it clear that they would not tolerate the Klan's presence. After receiving a tip that the Klan might be meeting in Danville, Virginia, the protesters decided to take the protest there.

Anti-racist protesters confront the Klan threat in Raleigh, North Carolina
Anti-racist protesters confront the Klan threat in Raleigh, North Carolina (OG Kringle)

Over 150 protesters traveled to Danville and took the streets there, chanting slogans like "Racist, sexist, anti-gay--KKK, go away!" "Black lives matter" and "Cops and the Klan go hand in hand!" They were met with vocal support from many Danville community members. A number came out of their homes and workplaces to cheer on the protesters.

Rev. Vaughn, an African American Vietnam veteran and Danville native, thanked activists for their stand against racism. "There's people out there just waiting for the opportunity to come forward, and if you don't shut it down, then that's a call to say that it's okay," Vaughn said.

He pointed to the way that economic conditions contribute to racism in the town, saying, "I understand the mentality, because it's very poor. When you do away with the middle class, and you leave the bottom to fight amongst themselves--the top pits us against each other."

AS THE rally came to a close, protesters learned that the Klan had canceled its scheduled parade. Instead, in the nearby town of Roxboro, the fascists held a 20-car "parade," with drivers and passengers apparently afraid to leave their vehicles.

Although some media mocked protesters for showing up in opposition to the canceled rally, it was clear to everyone present that the Klan had called off their march due to the overwhelming opposition.

The contrast in police treatment of the two rallies was a sad testament to the anti-Klan protesters' chant of "Cops and the Klan go hand and hand." At the anti-Klan protest in both Danville and Pelham, cops in squad cars with sirens blaring and lights flashing stalked protestors throughout the march, even blocking off streets against them in an effort to prevent passage.

Police demanded that the marchers exit the street and even threatened the crowd by reminding them over the loudspeaker that wearing masks in Virginia (bandanas in this case) can result in a felony charge. Ironically, this Virginia law was first conceived as a way to prevent the Klan from disguising themselves.

Meanwhile, at the Klan's car parade, police cleared intersections, protecting the Klan's parade from being divided at traffic lights.

Video footage of the roughly 20-car "Klavalcade" revealed a pathetic turnout. The group was still able to meet in Roxboro, but it was clear that they were disorganized and their confidence had been shaken. The victory went to the anti-KKK protesters, who drew hundreds out to fight the Klan.

THE MARCH in Danville wasn't the only action against the KKK and Trump in the region. Large solidarity rallies were also held in Charlotte, Raleigh and other cities, bringing thousands together to speak against the agendas of the Klan and Donald Trump.

In Greensboro, some 100 people rallied and marched along the path that Black textile workers and Communist Workers Party (CWP) members had planned to march against racists in 1979 when they were gunned down in what came to be known as the "Greensboro Massacre."

On November 3, 1979, members of the American Nazi Party and Ku Klux Klan murdered five members of the CWP marching in solidarity with Black textile workers organizing for better wages, working conditions and an end to racism in the workplace. The killings were a low point for the city of Greensboro and a horrifying reminder of the continued legacy of hate and violence.

It wasn't until 2004, when community members put together a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that the city formally recognized the massacre. Eleven years later, in response to mass public pressure, the Greensboro City Council permitted the construction of a historical marker to commemorate the events.

At the protest, demonstrators spoke to the importance of reclaiming this history of struggle in our city and honoring those who have fallen in that struggle. Members of the Muslim, LGBTQ, Christian, Latinx, and Black Lives Matter communities spoke to how Trump's election adversely affects their lives, and encouraged demonstrators to keep organizing in order to carry the struggle forward.

Community members from all over the Piedmont Triad region came together at the Windsor Recreation Center in Greensboro, and spoke out in solidarity against the hate, oppression and violence that has surged in mainstream American political consciousness due to Donald Trump and his right-wing cabinet.

Activists shouted, "No justice for the Black, no justice for the Brown? What do we do? Shut it down, shut it down!" and "Say it loud. Say it clear. Immigrants are welcome here!" in defiance of the president-elect's proposed policies.

In the same week that Indigenous people and allies at Standing Rock achieved a victory in halting construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, thousands more North Carolinians of all faiths, colors and orientations united to send a strong message: Racism and bigotry will not be tolerated, and it is through organizing and building a movement based on the politics of solidarity that we can not shut down not only the Klan, but start fighting for the kind of society that we all deserve.

Further Reading

From the archives