Taking Cues from '98, Memphis Police Use "Show Of Force" For Klan

Taking Cues from '98, Memphis Police Use "Show Of Force" For Klan

No violence, no injuries, no property damage as the Ku Klux Klan came to town Saturday for a rally barely anyone could see.
MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - No violence, no injuries, no property damage as the Ku Klux Klan came to town Saturday for a rally barely anyone could see.

Police kept the Klan away from spectators, behind a fence, and blocked by a police truck and equipment. It was all designed to prevent the violence that ended the last Klan rally here in 1998.

"We know the world is watching," said Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong before the afternoon rally started.

A portion of downtown was locked down starting early Saturday morning. Memphis Police officers and Shelby County Sheriff's deputies flooded downtown, a show of force to deter any problems.

More than 60 Klan members met at the Pyramid, then were bused in on two MATA buses. Once inside the Shelby County Courthouse, they were searched before re-emerging.

Klan members organized the rally in protest of a February vote by the Memphis City Council to rename three parks, including Nathan Bedford Forrest Park. Forrest was the first grand wizard of the KKK.

The Klan's rally could barely be heard from a media area set up across the street. What could be heard had very little to do about the parks.

Less then two hours later they were done, filing back into the courthouse and onto waiting buses.

"There are no injuries, there is no property damage, nobody lost their life here today," Armstrong said. "Apparently we did something right."

Armstrong said officers learned a lot from the Klan's last rally in 1998, which ended with violence and property damage.

"If you look at what happened in 1998 and the results of what happened today, you can't put a price on it," Armstrong said. "So we will take it."

"We in Memphis and Shelby County, and in this region, took what could have been the worst of times, and turned it into the best of times, in terms of showing we can tolerate dissent even when the voices are voices we are not pleased with," Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said.

In the days leading up the rally, local business owners worried about the possibility of violence.

Fred Othmani owns Qahwa Coffee Bar a block from the rally.

"I felt like it was very organized, well thought about it, thanks God we are safe, we got some business too from it," Othmani said.

"It was an experience - I witnessed some history, but hoping when we have something else in Memphis, it will be a good event," he added.
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