(Memphis) – By 11:00a.m. Saturday curious spectators arrived, expecting an anti-Klan protest before the KKK showed up.
“I was excited to have a chance to experience it. I haven’t seen any Klan in my lifetime,” said Ollie Rashid, who was visiting from Lexington, Kentucky.
But anti-protestors who had applied for a permit were nowhere to be found.
People who thought they would see the Klan quickly learned being limited to 2 blocks away, didn’t give them any vantage point.
“I think it needs to be like that, that tight.Never know how crazy people gonna get,” said Mac Thompson of East Memphis.
Klan members, more than an hour late, emerged from the Shelby County Courthouse after 2:30pm and found their audience was mainly a sea of police, who kept the 60 or so members behind a fenced in sidewalk, two blocks from spectators and blocked from the media by a police truck.
“It was like overkill by the police department. We didn’t come down here to start a riot. We came down to hear,” said Sheila Poston of Hickory Hill.
The Klan in white robes and hoods, some in red, began their chants of white power and speeches that no one but the Tact Squad securing them could hear.
It left some people wondering.
“I thought it was the head of state visiting all this extra security. Who were they really protecting, the people who live in this city or the outside agitators?” said Ron Herd of East Memphis.
“As an old activist, I don’t think that you should stage it that much to where you completely separate off the connection between those who are for and those against. I think there could be more involvement of the public on both sides and still maintain law and order. You have an extraordinary number of law enforcement here,” said former Judge D’Army Bailey, who came out to watch the rally. Bailey also commended law enforcement for keeping things safe.
In less than an hour, it was over, 30 minutes ahead of time. KKK members went back In the courthouse and left.
“They handled it really well. Memphis did a really good job,” said Camron Rossell of Downtown Memphis.
Talking to the News Media after the rally, Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said this was a text-book example of what can be done when law enforcement collaborate. He said he and Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham had been talking before the Klan permit was even approved. Other area law enforcement came on board to assist.
“They did what they said they would do. They said they would keep things safe and they did that,” said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton, who commended law enforcement for a job well done.
There was one arrest during the rally. There was a crowd of around 1,200 that came out to see the rally. Sixty-one Klan members showed up. There were countless law enforcement on patrol. Police are tallying up the cost of security. A small group of Klan protestors marched a few blocks away from the rally, before the Klan appeared.