(Memphis) The City of Memphis has issued a permit for the KKK to host a demonstration March 30.
The protest was prompted by the city council removing three Confederate-related names from Memphis parks.
The permit was approved by Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong.
Protestors will not be allowed to cover their faces or carry any weapons.
The protest will take place 1:30-4 p.m. at 140 Adams Street on Saturday, March 30th.
Director Armstrong says so far his talks with the KKK have been, “very respectful,”though he mentioned a sense of disorganization coming from the Klan.
He said he has had several talks with representatives of their group, one of which joined the Klan by phone and continued to call back to change his mind about even being involved in the KKK.
For that reason, Armstrong could not predict how many people might show up.
Director Armstrong has said he wants Memphians to enjoy their Easter weekend and to know police will handle any problems.
“We felt that it was better to make this decision, rather than to decline it and take the chance on independent protests without having control over it,” Armstrong said.
He added, “Obviously, being an African American man, it’s something I wish I didn’t have to do. But I took an oath to serve and protect, and I did not take an oath that I would protect certain groups of people.”
The officers working that rally are currently undergoing additional riot training, and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to help.
Armstrong will reach out to other municipalities’ police departments soon.
The NAACP has said they will not make a comment, as they would like to ignore the event so as not give it validity.
Other groups echo that sentiment. The Sons of Confederate Veterans wish to keep the name of Forrest Park, but oppose the idea of the KKK rally.
“We’re not happy about the Klan coming to Memphis, because that would just cause disruption, bad reputation for the city, a lot of turmoil. It will just increase the racial divisiveness here,” said Lee Millar.
Millar said he believes it’s a good idea to prohibit masks, because if anything happens, law enforcement can identify the person.
Meanwhile, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is hosting a prayer vigil earlier that week to commemorate the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.
Rev. Dwight Montgomery said their goal is for groups to come together in Memphis to solve the city’s issues.
“We can handle our own problems without hate groups coming in bringing about further division,” he said.
Armstrong advised everyone to stay away from the downtown area on that day. For those who wish to attend, he urges them to behave in a lawful manner, as police will be very strict with a zero-tolerance policy for both Klan and anti-Klan participants.
City Attorney Herman Morris said, “We have known from the beginning that denying this application would result in a legal fight on constitutionality that would be long, divisive, expensive, and that would unnecessarily prolong the decision. We have all, however, been very attune to Director Armstrong’s review given the critical role the Memphis Police Department will play in a proposed demonstration.”
There was damage after a KKK protest held in downtown Memphis in 1998 though the damage was done by anti-KKK protestors.
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