U.S.: The Ku Klux Klan's Tactical Shift
The American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan plans to rally against gay marriage in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 5 — three days ahead of the Nov. 8 vote on a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Although the demonstration likely will attract more police and counter-protesters than Klan members, it is significant in that it vividly illustrates the new trend among white supremacist groups to adopt causes that appeal to a broader base of Americans.
By focusing on a hot-button political issue such as same-sex marriage — rather than railing against the evils of the “Zionist-occupied government (ZOG),” which is how the Klan describes the U.S. government — the white supremacists believe they become much more appealing to the general public. Once the Klan and other such groups establish rapport with a person on the controversial issue, their thinking goes, they can gradually open that person’s eyes to the reality of the ZOG, the “evil” Jews and its other core beliefs. These groups claim that Jews are fostering illegal immigration and homosexuality as part of their secret conspiracy to weaken and control the “Aryan race,” and figure that a person concerned about these issues will, with guidance, come to recognize “the hidden Jewish hand.”
In addition to jumping on the anti-gay-marriage band wagon, white supremacists have participated in anti-immigration rallies and the Minutemen Project. The neo-Nazi National Alliance unit in Las Vegas even has rented a billboard on the Strip that reads, “Stop Immigration: Join the National Alliance.” Other units of the organization — many of which have broken with the National Alliance leadership to join the new group National Vanguard — have protested in front of Home Depot stores and day labor sites carrying signs that read, “Stop Immigration, join National Vanguard.” As we have discussed, National Vanguard and other such groups also sought to capitalize on the looting and unrest in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
The Klan, which has been in Texas since the Reconstruction era and once had a large membership in the state, has not held a protest in the capital since 1983 — so the rally is noteworthy in that it is occurring at all. This particular Klan group, which is not that well-established in Texas, however, will have trouble drawing more than a few followers. Even established Klan groups face this problem because of the repercussions of being publicly affiliated with the Klan — and because they will have a hard time finding members willing to hazard the counter-protest that undoubtedly will occur at City Hall. (The Klan had hoped to rally outside the state capitol, but was told it needed sponsorship from the governor or a member of the state legislature).
If the 1983 Klan rally in Austin or the Oct. 15 National Socialist Movement (NSM) rally in Toledo, Ohio, is any indication, the upcoming Austin rally could spark violence. NSM, which calls itself America’s Nazi Party, was prevented from carrying out its planned march in Ohio by the violent clashes that broke out between police and counter-protesters. These protesters vandalized businesses and even torched a building. Toledo Mayor Jack Ford was forced to declare a curfew to squelch violence and rioting. In such circumstances, the Nazis actually appear to be the more reasonable of the two groups – which is one of the things the white supremacists hope to gain from such rallies.
Publicity, of course, is another thing. A handful of strangely dressed people protesting in front of City Hall is not major news. A clash between these strangely dressed people and counter-protesters, however, does attract major media attention — especially if it turns into a riot. In Toledo, the counter-protesters played right into the hands of the white supremacists. Time will tell whether Austinites fall into the same trap.