Friday, June 19, 2015

Nazis and Ku Klux Klan and Aryan Brotherhood, Oh, My!

 by Linda Rodriguez
(This blog originally ran on Writers Who Kill)

I am so incensed and upset about the massacre by a white supremacist of nine African American people at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston that I can't think of anything else to write about, yet I don't want to just add to the rhetoric about that atrocity. So I thought instead I would re-run a blog I wrote for Writers Who Kill a couple of years ago when white supremacists descended on my city--to remind us that they're out there and are a real danger and to remind us that there's a beautiful coalition of old and young who will stand up to them.

Yes, those are swastikas on the flags you see in that photo. Saturday, the Nazi Socialist Movement, the largest neo-Nazi organization in the country, came to my hometown, Kansas City, for a national gathering to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht with their pals the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Brotherhood, and Satan’s Saints, a white supremacist motorcycle gang.

I’m a lifelong activist. The FBI has a file on me from the J.Edgar Hoover days (which puts me in very good company). I’ve been teargassed in antiwar protests and had rotten tomatoes and eggs thrown at me in civil rights marches. I’ve put in my time at trying to make this a decent country for everyone, and as lupus, fibromyalgia, and severe asthma have taken a toll on me and left me needing a cane, I had decided that I was done with going out into the streets to protest or demonstrate. I figured I’d earned my time to sit peacefully at home and finish the book for which I have an impending deadline.

Then the Nazis announced that they were coming to Kansas City. They came to KC in 2007 to celebrate Hitler’s birthday and paraded around in Nazi uniforms. I thought surely others would stand against them and no one did. So Saturday saw me downtown at City Hall facing the Jackson County Courthouse where the Nazis, KKK, and fellow travelers were supposed to bring over a thousand jackbooted thugs to parade around to celebrate the night their German forebears destroyed Jewish shops, killed many Jews, and started rounding up them (and many other minority groups) for concentration camps to begin Hitler’s Final Solution.

The same politicos who rolled out the red carpet for these Nazis, allowing them all kinds of things that we counter-ralliers were not allowed—bullhorns, ultra-large stereo speakers, microphone stands, and much more when we weren’t even allowed water bottles or purses to carry our medicine (I had to make use of Ben’s pockets for mine)—tried to keep us from protesting against them, and when they couldn’t , organized another rally miles away, effectively dividing the forces of reason for political purposes. So reluctantly, after an exhausting week of work and events every night for my husband’s job, we drove downtown early to set up for one more stand against hate.

Even with the politicians putting pressure on organizations to attend their rally safely miles away, seven hundred people arrived to stand up against the Nazis—ministers, schoolteachers, college and high school students, secretaries, longtime civil rights activists, young veterans of the Occupy movement, active-duty soldiers, grandmothers with their grandchildren, fiery young anarchists, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, white, African American, Latino, American Indian, and a few women in hijabs. What was especially gratifying to me was that the vast majority were young people.

What was not gratifying was that the police were aimed at us and apparently had orders to threaten us with teargas and pepper spray. Fortunately, none was used against us, but that’s why in some photos you will see folks with bandannas or handkerchiefs over their mouths and noses. These were the ones who’d been involved with the Occupy movement and had recent experience of being sprayed with these toxic substances. Also, a little disconcerting was the militarized appearance of the police. About six clearly marked observers for the Department of Justice circulated among us—and may have been the only reason that our peaceful gathering was not attacked by the police, who paid little attention to the Nazis, et al.

The Nazis and white supremacists only managed to field about three dozen people instead of the thousand-plus they had threatened. When asked later by the press about the low turnout, they said that many turned back, afraid of the publicity that our counter rally had drawn and afraid that they might lose their jobs if they were publicly seen. Some dismissed that as fake excuses, but I’ve seen the membership numbers that researchers have compiled for these organizations, and I know they could easily field that many people. Therefore, I count our protest a success since it inhibited more from coming out in public.

The rhetoric was as awful as you might expect. Talk of putting all but Aryans into “subservience.” Talk of the fun they have arming with guns and going “hunting illegals” at the border, as if it were a sport. Talk of the “judaization” of America and the world and how they will “cleanse” it. But mostly it was the same rhetoric you can hear any day on talk radio or from the extremist politicians who have seized control of Congress. That was the eye-opener. They even played a recording from the 1980s of a deceased leader, and it was basically Tea Party rhetoric with some extra-nasty violence added. It underscored how far to the right our country has slid when the lines the Nazis have been spouting for decades have suddenly become the main themes of powerful elected politicians.

But the main takeaway of the day was the beautiful, diverse gathering who peacefully stood up against the haters and said, “No.” That and the heavy involvement of young people from conservatively dressed yuppie types to the heavily tattooed anarchists who placed themselves in the front lines, fully expecting teargas or pepper spray. I have had my days of depression and cynicism when I look at the way things are going, but I am newly optimistic after this glimpse of the upcoming generation, who, with all their differences, will still stand up and stand together against violence and hate.

REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger hates me still):

Kay, I don't blame the police in general (though some of them seemed to really belong over with the KKK, etc.). Most of them were just doing what the politicians who run the city told them to do.

Marilyn, yes, it is scary. These groups have had a renaissance of late, growing terribly in membership. And for everyone who thinks this is just a Southern problem, not so. They're all over--Michigan, California, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Montana, Missouri, New York, Maine, you name the state and they've got one or all of these organizations and other like them quartered there. What I found scariest, though, was that the same rhetoric of racist and anti-Semitic hate that they've always used is what we're hearing out of state houses and the US Congress now.

Marjorie, I'm sorry for what you and your colleagues have experienced. Discrimination encountered is a bitter pain, I know. I keep hoping that this atrocity, this terrible racist act, will be the catalyst that bring our society together against this vicious scourge, but so far, it hasn't happened. I begin to despair, but not yet entirely. I still hope.


  1. Thank you for re-running this post, Linda. The nine deaths in Charleston are devastating. I posted Jon Stewart's take on the catastrophe on my Facebook page. He says we have to stare into the face of the abyss and tell it for what it really is. Basically, that we call slaughter a tragedy as if it were a hurricane we could do nothing about and go right on as before and nothing changes.
    I am devastated at your portrayal of the police in Kansas City focusing its firepower on the anti-Nazi protesters, rather than the foul ones themselves.

  2. Chilling to say the least. I can't imagine how devastated all the people of that church are--the families and friends of the slaughtered. As someone who lives in this country I am horrified that people have such warped minds.

  3. Just last night, colleagues and I were talking about the prejudice we've encountered in the US and how it gets hidden. Appreciate your blog. I'm glad you take a stand. Hatred will destroy us if we can't turn it into respect for our diversities.


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