KKK March down Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC, 1925 (Photo: Getty)
Crowd opposing KKK march to Lafayette Park, Washington, DC, 1982 (Photographer unknown)
Facing white supremacists at Lafayette Park, Washington, DC, 2018 (Photo: Bruce A. Jacobs)
The August 12, 2018 embarrassment for Jason Kessler and his knucklehead squad was not the first time that white supremacist goons have targeted Washington, DC and the city's Lafayette Park. It follows at least one infamous Ku Klux Klan event in Lafayette Park, and others in historic parts of this city as well. For instance:
- In 1925, at the height of the KKK's popularity (it had 5 million members), 35,000 KKKers marched down Pennsylvania Avenue as if they owned the place. In many ways they did: U.S. lynchings peaked at more than 100 a year between the 1890s and the early 1900s, and legally-codified racial brutality, segregation, and discrimination were considered acceptable by the ruling white mainstream.
- In 1982, two years after the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency, a far smaller Klan contingent of 12 members faced thousands of enraged counter-protesters, some of whom overturned cars and mixed it up with police. From a New York Times account at the time:
"Eleven police officers were injured, none seriously, in the melee, and 38 demonstrators were arrested. Before order was restored, two cars had been overturned, at least two stores had been looted and windows in several buildings, including the historic home of James Madison, had been smashed.
Klan leaders had predicted that as many as 200 of their members would march from the Capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue to the rally. Instead, about three dozen Klansmen showed up and, on the advice of the police, changed their plans in order to stay clear of numerous anti-Klan groups demonstrating by the hundreds at points along the route.
The Klansmen canceled the march down the avenue and drove in a police motorcade to Lafayette Park. They left their white robes in shopping bags during the 15-minute gathering, which was more of a question-and-answer session with reporters than a full-fledged rally. When it ended, the police swiftly escorted the Klansmen out of town."
1982's parallels to Sunday's event 36 years later are striking: Racists with blood on their hands call for hundreds of attendees, nearly all of them are scared away, and the handful who show up are baby-sat by police escorts to Lafayette Park, where they pose for the press before police quickly usher them back out of town to safety. It amounts to a police-guarded photo op, at massive public expense, for ninny bullies who for centuries have ducked the concept of meritocracy, let alone a fair fight.
And there is still the dangerous question of the factual meaning of free speech. More on that coming, to be sure, but the above pieces of history, about which I've just learned, come first.
Thanks to Allie.