“The KKK Stirred Up White-Hot Rage at the South Carolina Statehouse This Weekend”

By James Yeh, originally published on (2015)

Photo by Justin Schmitz

On Saturday, the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia played host to a fierce rally organized by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a North Carolina–based group. Coming just weeks after the murder of nine people at a historic African American church in Charleston—and the subsequent removal of the Confederate flag from the Capitol—the event felt like a throwback to the Jim Crow era. It was a spectacle defined by anger, racial tension, Confederate flag burnings, and a wide spectrum of idiosyncratic and not infrequently confusing ideologies.

Media coverage had been thick in the preceding weeks, ratcheted up by a counter-protest organized by the Black Educators for Justice, a Florida-based group led by James Evan Muhammad, a teacher and former education director of the New Black Panthers. As two police snipers stood sentry on the roof of the Statehouse, Muhammad spoke along with other Black Power allies, including Niecee X of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club in Dallas.

Around 3 PM, under heavy protection from state police—many in body armor—a procession of around 60 Klansmen (and Klan women) and supporters filed up the south steps to the Statehouse. They headed toward a barricaded area where they might capitalize on their state-sanctioned right to assemble. Dressed in black shirts adorned with various Klan-related badges and white-supremacist insignias, the group had no microphone, and no podium. The Educators had spoken since noon on the themes of black power and unity and the need for social and systemic change; the Klan offered up an unamplified, archaic message, shouting obscenities and racial slurs and striking taunting poses.

The spectacle had the appearance of some terrible play, or maybe a parking-lot brawl, only instead of actors or drunk teenagers you had what once was America's most feared and dangerous white-supremacist group waving Confederate flags, one Nazi flag, and tearing up the flag of Israel. (Later, when cornered in the parking lot though still protected by police, one of the Klansmen would moon the protesters.) Another supporter, wearing a white tank top and camo pants, pantomimed gorilla gestures at black protesters. It was all a part of a belligerent if somewhat effective middle finger aimed at just about anyone who wasn't white and in favor of the flag.