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Guest Post: My Night With the Klan, Part 3

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Editor’s Note: This article from 1992 tells a remarkable story of one man’s brave visit to a KKK rally. The stories Lee present serve a cautionary tale: human nature abhors a vacuum. When leaders fail to lead, humanity cries out. And, to paraphrase Steven King, who knows what dread thing will answer.

Bear in mind that this rally took place in 1992. George H.W. Bush was president, and the Golden Age of Ronald Reagan was only 3 years in the past. The United States had just won the Cold War and trounced Saddam Hussein in Operation Desert Storm. The World Wide Web was a year from launching. Email was new–on CompuServe or Prodigy or the upstart AOL. The US economy was emerging from short but deep recession.

Read Part I

Read Part II

My Night With the Klan

by Lee A. Presser

Finally, the featured speaker was called to the mike.  Novak described Thomas Robb is a minister from the great state of Arkansas.  He is a candidate for the Arkansas state legislature.  He is a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Soon after his introduction Thomas Robb told the crowd that the press was being invited in to hear his speech.  “Act courteously to these people,” he instructed.  “We want them to hear my speech.  Not that they will write the truth about what we are saying here, but at least they would know what we want.”  The meeting came to a complete stop while the press filed into their designated spot.

Once settled the members of the press occupied themselves with one of three activities, copying quotes into their reporter notebooks, shooting 35mm photos, and operating television news cameras.

Inside my head I said to my friends in the press, “Stand by, press corps, for the Klan’s spin on what they want you to know about this meeting.  You’ve already missed your chance to learn something for yourself by waiting outside while the real meeting was going on.  You could have met the people before the meeting.  They might have even given you some usable quotes.  Now you’re been paraded in here for the spin.

The press was not prepared for what came next.  Thomas Robb, Grand Wizard of the KKK, waited until the press were properly stationed and then announced that, despite what the press told the public, “This is not a Klan meeting, it is a revival.” They were there to ask for God’s help in fixing an ailing America.  They were there for guidance on how to stop people from forcing gay rights on Christian America.

They were there to learn how to stop crime in the streets, perpetrated primarily by Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.  How to stop the flood of illegal aliens crossing our open southern border.  How to reverse laws which make it difficult for a white man to get a decent job.

To believe this was not a Klan meeting was to suspend reality and ignore the fact that nearly everyone was wearing a shirt or a hat or a uniform with a KKK logo.  Good speakers can help an audience imagine a world different from the one in which it finds itself.  But, I would have had to be both blind and deaf to believe this was not a Klan Meeting.

Tom Robb knew more history than his audience.  He used it to his advantage when talking about the founding of America.  He stated that the colonies were established by those who sought religious freedom.  He spoke of the signing of the Magna Carta in white Europe and its significance to American democracy.  The history lesson was crafted to prove that American democracy is a white invention and white men should by rights keep control of its laws.

He was a great story teller.  Robb walked his listeners step-by-step to the “truth.”  To hear him tell the tale, one would have thought that the English lords who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta were doing it to give every white person new political rights.

Those of us who know history knew he is wrong.  The Magna Carta granted rights to a few rich, Norman land holders.  He failed to mention that Saxon white men and women gained nothing.  They had lost most of their rights a century and a half before when Normans invaded Eng1and.  By the thirteenth century, Saxons still had few legal rights and little economic security.  From the year 1000 AD, to the year 2000 AD, gaining political rights in Western Europe was an evolutionary process.

In discussing the establishment of the American colonies, he talked of colonists motivated by freedom of religion. He failed to talk about their political rights.  In reality, the colonies were financed by rich white men in Europe who, in pursuit of profits, made most of the rules and treated the colonists like employees (or worse).  Political rights came later, much later. Yet, without defining the process, this Minister of the Christian faith, Thomas Robb, implied there was a single formula for a well-run Christian government and that by following those rules white people grew to their fullest potential.

As I listened to his speech, I imagined a similar meeting in 1978.  Leaders of the faith told their followers that people with religious values should be in political power.  The people of Iran listened to the promises but what they got was the Ayatollah Khomeini’s dictatorship.

Tom Robb put on his most liberal face for this meeting.  He never talked about beating up Blacks, Hispanics, or Asians.  We didn’t hear graphic racial slurs from the platform.  From him we heard about using the vote.  The fighting words came
from the crowd.  One young lady, later in the evening, while waiting for the cross lighting ceremony said, “There wasn’t enough nigger-bashing during those speeches.”  Others agreed in more graphic detail.

None of the evening’s speakers offered an action plan to the crowd.  The leaders are still gathering political strength.  Action will be announced later.

Tom Robb probably knew that only a few weeks before this rally, over in Eastern Germany and Romania, immigrants, including Gypsies, were attacked and injured by fervent Nazis.  It took the German police days to put the Nazis’ violence down.  Days after those news reports, there were other news stories, only this time it was about Nazi-like activities in England.

To my shock and utter dismay, the well dressed lady with the lovely hat loudly said, “You’re absolutely right,” and other affirmations during Mr. Robb’s inflammatory speech.  I was standing near her and was flabbergasted by her utterances.   That was the scariest part of the evening for me.  When she and I had talked before the speeches she said this was her first event and she was here to “check out” what was being said.  Apparently she liked what she heard and was an immediate convert.  Many times during the speech she loudly vocalized her approval. She was a seemingly intelligent woman, a professional woman, a real estate broker in agreement with hate.  I wondered how many more “good people” like her there are in our community.  People like her who might vote for someone local like
Tom Robb?

Grand Wizard Robb finished his speech and invited everyone to the “cross lighting” in the field immediately adjacent.  The lady in the hat and I spoke for a couple of minutes.  She told me people in Southern Illinois were fed up and wanted change now.

Assembling for the Cross Lighting ceremony, which was set up a fair distance from the farm house, the crowd lined up in two circles, an inner circle nearer to the cross, and a much larger outer circle around them.  Once everyone was in position surrounding Grand Wizard Thomas Robb and the ten foot high wooden cross, he spoke to the crowd.  It felt eerily like being part of a movie.  He lit his torch and passed the fire to the inner circle.  Those in the inner circle carried torches and passed the fire, torch to torch, around the circumference.  A chant was called and the torches were slowly raised from the ground to the sky.  This continued for several minutes.  Torches down, then up, down, then up.  More incantations and then all the torches were piled at the foot of the cross.  The fabric which sheathed the cross began to burn.  The heat warmed the crowd.  The fire rose up the vertical leg to the horizontal and then out onto the crossbar.  It was an impressive sight.  One lone airplane circled above, watching the proceedings.

The ceremony lasted twenty minutes.  At the end the crowd dispersed.  The program was over.  The cross continued to burn.  People moved toward their car, leaving Terry Taviner’s land. Within fifteen minutes most of the crowd was gone.  I stayed and listened to talk from those remaining.  Their assessment was that it had been a good meeting.  When only the hardcore members remained, I left the property and walked down the road to the ditch where I left my car, hoping it hadn’t been towed.  Luckily, it was exactly where I left it.  I got in, made my way back up onto the road, and drove away.

At the corners of Torch Club and Fosterburg roads, cars had to stop for the stop sign.  A deputy was standing with a flashlight and a clip board. He wrote down the license numbers of all who were passing him.  As I passed the deputy I thought, “guess the FBI will be following up with me, too.”  It made me mad at the time, but on reflection, I understood that some of the hardcore Klansmen/Nazis do need to be watched to make sure they are staying within the constitution.

The crowd’s prediction about the slant in the newspapers and on the television news proved accurate. The reports for the most part were about the circus which surrounded the meeting with precious little about the state of mind of the people who attended.  This tendency by the press is most unfortunate.  The readers are left with a false impression of those who attended. One front page report quoted an expert as saying, “The Klan won’t take root in the area.”  To me it looked as though the Klan already had.  He was also quoted as saying that the young people were at the meeting, “Mostly for the free food.”  There w as no free food.  The young people I listened to had strong political and economic reasons for being at the meeting.  From news reports one would think the crowd was filled with kooks who bore no resemblance to the general public.  Yet, many of those who attended looked like my neighbors (and your neighbors).  Some were so politically frustrated they could and would vote for candidates with extreme political views in an attempt to ‘fix’ their country.

The more important story which was missed by the press wass the large number of people living in Southern Illinois (and throughout the U.S.) who were not in attendance but feel to some extent the same as those who were.  That’s a story the mainstream press prefers not to talk about.

Here in 1992, during a Presidential Election, America is in a moment of great economic stress.  Some families are fighting for their economic life.  For millions it is too late.  They have already crashed on hard times.  They ask, “Why this has happen hardworking, honest people?”
The Klan/Nazi/White Power organizations have a ready answer for weary voters, and they are learning to package it for local and national consumption. David Duke’s name was mentioned more than once at the meeting.  Duke’s packaging nearly got him elected governor of Louisiana.  With times getting harder, nerves fray, and normally tolerant people change their behavior.  Some of those “good people” were at the rally.  More may come next time. Maybe many more.  For those people, life has changed too fast.  They want the changes reversed.  They want their comfortable old life back.  Like good politicians, the Klan promises to get it back for them.  If the political climate continues to deteriorate along with the economy until the 1994 elections, the extreme right will make inroads.  Some voters, maybe a lot of them, will believe the extremist’s promise; I’ll fix it so you get your old life back.

During the 1994 elections, many new people will be running for public office.  If the tension between the races is increased by continuing competition for jobs, voters may find candidates who are right of center with positions which seem extreme by today’s standards.

Economic issues faced by Middle America’s must be dealt with now or future political consequences could be dire.  The press has an obligation to report what is happening to our economically stressed out neighbors, rather than only what they want the public to know.

The process will require members of the press to get to know people whose ideas different and may be personally offensive.  They must report on why support for extreme right wing groups is growing rapidly.

It is critical that national leaders find a way to bring Middle America back to the center.  Young men who yell “White Power” and give a Nazi salute don’t feel like they have a strong stake in the American dream. If they did, they would probably be growing their business rather attending Klan meetings.

But in today’s economy these young people can’t even get a good paying labor job. They don’t own a house and are not sure they will ever be able to afford one. They can’t see how they will be able to give their kids the life they took for granted while growing up.  These items include three meals a day, a place to sleep at night, healthcare coverage, college or trade school education, a neighborhood without driveby shootings, and most importantly, a future.

As long as a significant portion of the population feels that the system is failing them and that they will never have economic security without winning the lottery, there will be people who would vote for social change without fully understanding how far the change could go.

Remember, their vote will affect you, too.

The American system is to grant police powers to the elected officials. Elected officials declare the laws by which they use those police powers. Imagine how a President David Duke might use his police powers.  Some of these young men and women have lived their entire life without hope. Some are newly poor. For this growing underclass a recession has been going on a lot longer then it has for many of us.

History records that when people feel unconnected to their society, disorder follows.  There are tens of millions of people in America who have fallen outside of the system.  Those 18 and over can vote. Under the proper conditions they could be persuaded to vote for any cause which promises a shortcut to a better life.  A lifetime of listening to advertising has already conditioned them.

I am glad I went to the rally. It’s given me the chance to tell you about it. Please pass this information along to others.

Guest Post: My Night With the Klan, Part 2

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Editor’s Note: This article from 1992 tells a remarkable story of one man’s brave visit to a KKK rally. The stories Lee present serve a cautionary tale: human nature abhors a vacuum. When leaders fail to lead, humanity cries out. And, to paraphrase Steven King, who knows what dread thing will answer.

Bear in mind that this rally took place in 1992. George H.W. Bush was president, and the Golden Age of Ronald Reagan was only 3 years in the past. The United States had just won the Cold War and trounced Saddam Hussein in Operation Desert Storm. The World Wide Web was a year from launching. Email was new–on CompuServe or Prodigy or the upstart AOL. The US economy was emerging from short but deep recession.

Read Part I

My Night With the Klan

by Lee A. Presser

At 5:50, one of the uniformed men whom I had engaged in conversation told me that at 6:00 an announcement would be made about the speeches, which he said would be starting at 6:45.  Another hour!  I had to fill another hour!  My heart sank. Could I be with these people for another hour without them becoming suspicious of who I was and what I was doing there?   I’d continue talking with people and learning what they believed and why they believed it.

One of the reporters, a fellow of long acquaintance, had come across the street and into the rally.  As I passed him he whispered, ”I’m not a reporter, got it.”  I acknowledged what he said and told him about the delay until 6:45.  He (and the friend he brought) gradually moved over to a nearby fence, hanging out there until the speeches started.

Continuing my rounds I approached another group of men in their late twenties and early thirties.  I stopped short at the mention of the word “bomb.”  It seems the “feds” had confiscated one of these fellow’s bomb parts.  Another chimed in that he could get him replacement parts.  No Problem.  This was followed by more complaints about how the police are always harassing them and their friends and how unfair it was. Later the conversation drifted into general conversation.

Across the yard I saw Tom Robb engaged in a conversation with a guy in an Aryan logo T-shirt.  The guy was half Robb’s age.  After coming into earshot, I heard the younger man telling Robb about how he and his buddies had been forced to move out of the apartment.  He was homeless.  He couldn’t find a job.  He had to move back in with his parents, but his parents didn’t understand about white power.  Moving closer, I wanted to hear what Tom Robb said to people at a Klan function.

The young man asked Robb how Robb’s parents had felt about white issues.  Robb smiled.  “My mother knew ‘the truth’ and taught me well.  Look at me today.”  There more conversation about Robb’s upbringing which was followed by a back and forth chat about the holocaust.  Neither of them believed the holocaust (as portrayed in movies and on TV) had occurred.  Both of them appeared to hold that opinion as an article of faith.  The fellow asked Robb how he felt, as a younger man, when he watched those World War 2 movies.  Robb smiled and stated even then he understood the realities of Hollywood’s “slant” on the war.  Thinking back to a much earlier time in his life, Tom Robb said to the younger man, “When I was a little boy I would march home and imagine I was leading a long parade of Nazis.” Looking at the two of them talking, I was thinking, “Mr. Robb you grew up to fulfill that dream.”

Having heard enough my gaze moved to the other side of the yard where a beautiful mature woman was sitting by herself on a bench.  She was well dressed and wore a stylish little hat.  She seemed completely out of place.  The seat next to her had just been vacated so I slid in next to her with the words, “I love your hat.”  She could tell I was being sincere and we began a very friendly conversation.  This woman definitely did not look like she belonged at a meeting of the Klan.

During our talk, I discovered she was a professional woman, an insurance broker.  Further conversation revealed that, she had come to hear what the Klan had to say.  She was not a member and had never been to a Klan meeting before. As we continued talking I learned she lived in the town just south of mine.  A guy who was sitting further down the bench interrupted to say he lived in the town just to my north.  A mother holding her five-month-old on a bench in front of ours faded into and out of our conversation.  There followed talk between the women about the joys and pains of motherhood.   Through the crowd I heard similar conversations.  The crazier people I met earlier talked about violence but most of the crowd, young and old, spoke about wanting a decent life for their family; a home, a job, security.

At 6:45pm the meeting was called to order. Recorded music had been playing since I arrived. The final tunes were stirring renditions of patriotic songs including America the Beautiful.  There was a podium with a microphone and large speakers.  The first speaker moved to the speaker’s area.

This gentleman, whose name I did not hear, was middle-aged, had a soft smile, and knew how to speak to a crowd.  The meeting was officially underway.  He thanked Terry Taviner, the owner of the house, for the use of his yard.  He reflected on how this was the first open Klan meeting in Madison County in over three decades but he hoped it would be an annual event.  He mentioned the recent death of an influential Klan member and invited people to the memorial service which was 500 miles away.  I learned many of the people at the rally travel from state to state attending meetings and memorials.

When the speaker finished his announcements he turned his mike over to a younger man.  During that quiet moment we could hear the chants from the student protestors across the street.  The young man was the son of the featured speaker, Thomas Robb.  In his middle twenties, the younger Robb spoke well, had a warm smile, a pleasing manner, and looked like he belonged in his Klan/Nazi uniform.  He briefly covered his list of announcements and quickly moved on to introduce the next speaker, Ed Novak from Chicago, a state leader and a great Klansman.

Ed Novak, bearded and in his thirties, was also in uniform.  Moving to the mike, he immediately dealt with the protesters’ chants.  Turning to the rally crowd he suggested the next time we hear that noise from the other side of the street “all of you should answer with a cry of White Power.”  Soon thereafter we heard the protesters shout and over a hundred voices responded with a mighty yell of “White Power.”  This provoked another chant from the street. That sent the rally crowd into a frenzy of “White Power” yells.  I could see the right arm being raised by many in the crowd making the responding yells.  The younger members of the crowd were really getting into it with repeated quick shouts.

Finally, the speaker called the crowd back to order.  He reminded them that those yelling in the streets for black rights wouldn’t last a day in an inner city neighborhood.  He talked about trouble in Chicago caused by minorities, the cost of welfare, and the cost of housing them in local jails and in state prisons.  He talked about how much tax money was wasted supporting “those people.”  He spoke about his affiliation with the Klan and the pleasure of knowing the truth about why America was in trouble.  He pointed out that due to our open border with Mexico many Mexicans were in our country, taking our jobs and shifting the political balance of power in several states and in many large cities. Then he said Mexico City has the largest population of Mexicans in the world, followed by Los Angles and Chicago. He asked, “Why is it that the number two and three population centers of Mexicans are in the United States?”

The crowd stirred at that realization.  He said that at the current rate of immigration and minority births, within a generation or two at the most white people will not be the majority in America. The crowd did not like to hear that kind of talk.  “America was founded by white people for white people,” Mr. Novak shouted.  He also attacked the idea of gay rights being equal to the rights of Christians.  “In the beginning God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” he said in a very disapproving way.  On that point, I thought he sounded like several prominent Republicans at their 1992 convention.

Ed Novak spoke for about 30 minutes. He had the crowd yelling “White Power, White Power” throughout his talk. One young man, not in uniform, particularly enjoyed the yelling, the raising of the right arm, and the White Power subject matter.  This young man had wildness in his eyes, as did dozens of others in the crowd who were clearly ready for action. If Novak were to have given an order it would have been carried out immediately.  If he had instructed these people to attack the 10-15 members of the press or the student protestors on the other side of the street, they would have responded.  The press was not their friend.  Several times before the speeches started I heard people give example after example of how the Klan story which appeared in the newspaper or on TV was corrupted and did not represent then Klan they knew.

But Ed Novak did not give any orders.  He stated his case for creating laws which would protect whites from minorities. “White Laws” would keep the Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and “Queers” in their proper place. “White Laws” would help a decent Christian family man get a job.  Getting and keeping jobs in the white community were thoroughly discussed by both the crowd before the start of the speeches and by the speakers on the platform.  It was said that because of liberal changes in the law, a white man does not stand a chance for a job when in competition with a minority.  The man was a good speaker but certainly not a spellbinder.  During the speech, I got up to look around the house at the chanting crowd across the street.  What surprised me was how few protestors there were.

To be continued

Guest Post: My Night With the Klan, Part 1

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Editor’s Note: This article from 1992 tells a remarkable story of one man’s brave visit to a KKK rally. The stories Lee present serve a cautionary tale: human nature abhors a vacuum. When leaders fail to lead, humanity cries out. And, to paraphrase Steven King, who knows what dread thing will answer.

Bear in mind that this rally took place in 1992. George H.W. Bush was president, and the Golden Age of Ronald Reagan was only 3 years in the past. The United States had just won the Cold War and trounced Saddam Hussein in Operation Desert Storm. The World Wide Web was a year from launching. Email was new–on CompuServe or Prodigy or the upstart AOL. The US economy was emerging from short but deep recession.

 

My Night With the Klan

by Lee A. Presser

There was a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan on Saturday, September 12, 1992, in the farm country of Madison County in Southwest Illinois.  It was said that it had been thirty years since the last such open gathering in the Madison County.  The meeting was well organized, enthusiastic, and very secure.  Local, county, state, and federal officers were encamped across the street and fanned out in cars for miles around.

Standing in front of the farmhouse gate were two men in Klan uniforms holding homemade shields painted with a large cross and a white power symbol.  Flags and KKK banners boldly adorned the chain link fence.  Inside the fence were other uniformed men.  Some were wearing headsets with boom mikes so they could talk to other Klan security personnel. The Klan had organized for its own protection.  A cadre of newspaper and TV representatives were gathered across the road but stood separated from a large contingent of police.

I first learned about this extraordinary meeting the previous week from a local newspaper article.  Once the “story” was out, all of the St. Louis region newspapers picked it up.  Their reports were quickly followed up by TV and radio news.  Word traveled throughout the region.  The Klan was to reemerge into public view after a generation of being invisible.

The Madison County Sheriff, a good cop, insisted that this was going to be a peaceful event and closely watched.  He spoke to the press and asked citizens to stay away from the meeting.  He notified everyone of a newly created “no-parking zone” which would extend a mile round the site.  He warned those who traveled to the meeting that their auto license plate numbers would be written down.  Then he did his duty as an officer of the law and let the public meeting go forward.  The Klan would have its public say.

At 4:00 PM, when I left my house, I was very nervous.  I feared meeting Klansmen.  Who knew how they would behave.  Would they be physically dangerous?  Would they attack me as a police spy?  I did not know.  My other fear was about getting to this rural meeting area, finding parking, and getting past all the partisan players by 6:00 PM to hear the Klan’s speakers for myself.  It was going to be a challenge.

The first thing I noticed upon my approach to Torch Club Road were three police vehicles at the intersection.  A reporter friend of mine was out of his car and having strong words with one of the police officers.  I kept driving.

I turned left and drove down the street looking for the address noted in the newspaper.  A sign on one property read “Parking $5.”  Driving further down Torch Club Road another sign announced, “Rally Here.”  It was a farmhouse with a very large field around the property.  Inside the fenced yard, a large crowd was already gathered.  Most of the people I saw in the front yard were wearing T-shirts with KKK or white power logos.  KKK guest parking was available on the property.  I continued driving past the farm house.  On the other side of the street was an army of police.  Freshly planted “No Parking” signs forced me to keep going.

Far down this country road, there was a residential street on the right.  Unfortunately, a sheriff’s deputy parked at the corner told me there was no parking allowed on that road, either.  Already a long way from the rally, I turned around and headed back.  This time, near the rally farmhouse, I spotted a clearing between some trees.  It was off the road, down in a ditch.  I took a chance that I would not get towed.

As I approached the rally site on foot, my stomach tightened.  I was going to have to walk past the uniformed men with their decorated shields, through their gate, and into a crowd attending a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan.

On the other side of the road were reporters I recognized and who recognized me.  “Are you going in?”   I answered yes, I want to see and hear the event for myself.  Isn’t that what writers were supposed to do.  Walking closer to a group of reporters who were huddling together, I asked them if they were going into the event.  All I got in response was a couple of shrugs and a terse “maybe later.”  How those reporters were going to know what to report was a mystery to me.  They were going to file reports about what they saw only from an exterior point of view.  Had they gone inside they would have been able learn what the crowd was thinking, feeling, and maybe learn why they were there in attendance.

It was time for me to cross the street.  I turned from my reporter friends, took a deep breath, and walked toward the entrance gate.  Walking, I watched the gate guards closely.  I smiled.  As I approached and to my surprise, they let me walk right by.  No questions were asked.

Inside the yard I was warmly greeted by several people.  Roaming about I spotted a literature table on the other side of this large fenced in area.  (I almost wrote the word ‘compound’ in the previous sentence but remembered it was someone’s backyard.)  When I approached the literature table a very handsome woman greeted me and offered brochures and fliers.  I picked up a copy of the “White Patriot” the “Worldwide Voice of the Aryan People.”  It’s banner headline exclaimed, “THIS IS THE KLAN.”  Stories about “Today’s Klan” filled the publication.

A dozen youngsters were running and playing in an adjacent separately fenced area further away from the house.  Mom’s sat nearby.  A grill was fired up near the literature table, cooking hamburgers which cost a $1.00.  Sodas were fifty cents.  There was a big hungry crowd waiting in line.

People were busily talking in groups just like at any other outdoor event.  By my count there were about 125 people in attendance.  At least a third were under 21 years old.  Another third were 21 to 35 years old. The relative youth of the crowd surprised me.  There was one man in a suit.  Probably he was the featured speaker mentioned in the press release.

Excusing myself from the lady at the literature table, I wandered toward a group of guys in their mid-twenties talking together, stopping close enough to hear what they had to say.  One was talking about negative encounters with the police and others concurred with personal stories about being harassed by the “feds” (FBI) and local police.  All of them keep glancing across the street at the police.  One said to the others “the feds had been grabbing letters out of a certain residential mailbox” and to prove it he and some other friends had put “interesting mail” into that box and later “discovered” it was gone and not with the mailman.   An anxious looking fellow standing with that group fiddled with what looked like a small wooden spear tipped with a metal spike attached by chain to his leather belt.  One of the young men declared they should be on the lookout for police infiltrators inside the fence.  Yet, they drew me into their conversation.  As we talked I noticed across the street, near the reporters, student protesters had arrived and were lining up.  Their signs and banners were raised in protest against the Klan meeting.  During my continuing conversation with the young men, I discovered that some had driven many hours to be at this meeting.  One said he came from DeKalb.  Another said he’d come up from Texas.  All said in recent years they had been to other meetings just like this one.

Moving from that group, I met another man from Texas, his lovely wife, and their beautiful children.  The two kids darted in and out as we conversed.  These Texans had also been other meetings like this one and were pleased to be at this one.  They said that the featured speaker, Thomas Robb (the man in the suit), was very inspirational.  Mr. Robb is a minister from Arkansas, I was told.  He was also a candidate for the Arkansas state legislature.  As I spoke to this couple, around us were other conversations about family and work.  This Klan event was a social occasion, much like a company picnic.  Whole families had come.  Wives met and chatted with other wives.  Kids met kids and they played together.  The people were festive.  They ate burgers and drank cold drinks.  Mothers fed their babies.

To be continued