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Absurdity of hate evidenced in Klan rally, counterprotest

Nov. 9, 1999

This weekend, Waco played host to a display of the worst humanity has to offer.

On one side of the police barriers at the McLennan County Court House Saturday afternoon was a white mass of contradictions.

Yelling 'White Power' and offering the same salute offered to Hitler during the world's darkest period were 19 members of the Ku Klux Klan's Church of the American Knights. Donning white robes and large coned hats with masks attached, they professed racial equality and racial hatred; they lambasted the federal government while waving American flags; they criticized immaturity and ignorance while trading 'yo-mamma' jokes with counter-demonstrators; and they pridefully spoke of self-love while hiding their faces behind their signature masks.

On the other side of the barriers was a mosaic of confused onlookers and hostile protesters.

For the most part, they gathered out of morbid curiosity. They came to see hate personified; to quench that normally hidden desire, held deep down inside -- the one that watches hockey for the blood and NASCAR for the crashes; to see the conflict; to be a part of it. They wanted the Klan there on the steps of the courthouse . . . they wanted them right there, a stone's throw away, so they could tell the Klan it wasn't welcome in Waco.

Nobody listening. Everybody yelling. Nobody making any sense.

The American Knights' appearance in Waco was confusing to begin with.

Why, six years later, does the Klan come to Waco to protest the government's handling of the Branch Davidians? Why do they choose the McLennan County Courthouse as their venue? Why do they choose the Branch Davidians as their focus -- a group that included many minorities?

Why all of a sudden do they claim to be about equal rights for everyone saying they hate no one? If this is really their new belief, they ought to inform their entire membership.

The third speaker for the masked group began his speech by declaring in front of everyone that he hates 'niggers,' 'spics,' 'gays' and 'Jews.' The imperial wizard did not flinch or protest at this statement, he only maintained his indignant, stoic expression.

This imperial wizard cursed into his microphone as much as he prayed. He had no prepared speech and no real point. He spent his time responding to his critics on the other side of the fence.

If his responses lacked continuity, he alone can't be blamed, the crowd did not seem sure of what it wanted to say to him either.

The self-proclaimed leader of the group was convinced that every person dressed in white on those steps was a federal agent.

No, seriously. He chanted into his megaphone with the lyricism of a dying duck, 'Klan are federal agents, Klan are federal agents.' He gave no reason for his claim, only relentless repetition.

Others among the crowd chastised the Klan for its declaration of 'White Power,' but every time the Knights said it, others chimed in with 'Black Power' or 'Indian Power' or 'Mexican Power.'

Even the authorities were not immune to the nonsense. Officers responded to questions of preparedness saying they were not taking the rally seriously. Yet, there were enough Texas Department of Public Safety officers, Waco police and Beverly Hills police to bring peace between the North and South during the Civil War. Often both sides were drowned out by the humming of a DPS helicopter overhead.

In the end, the rally lasted just more than an hour. The Klan retired to the courthouse to take off the disguises and the crowd dispersed with the protesters returning to their normal lives.

The exchange that at times deteriorated to petty, playground name-calling and teasing was over. The Klan had made its point, and the protesters had made theirs.

And we were none the better for it.

John Drake is a sophomore journalism and political science major from La Marque.