The Memphis chapter of the NAACP is urging those who oppose a potential March Ku Klux Klan march to best show their dissent by staying far away from the event.
The organization wants to avert the violence that erupted even before 50 Klansmen arrived in Downtown Memphis in January 1998.
Fifteen years later with the imminent potential of another wave of Klansmen promising to march en masse in downtown on the day before Easter, this time in protest of a city council proposal to rename three former Confederate parks, the city's leading civil rights organization is advancing a different strategy in response to a Klan invasion.
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"There will be no need for people to come out or to have any form of opposition against their right to express their opinion," said Pastor Keith Norman, President of the Memphis NAACP. "We have spoken with the Sons of the Confederate, that are also in agreement. This is a Memphis issue and a concern over history and not over any concerns that we have of one community versus another.
But, as was demonstrated in 1998, sometimes just the appearance of the Klan provides an unnecessary opportunity for other less high minded sectors of our community to wreak havoc as well. By the time, the Klan hit town, their venomous spiel was only heard by a handful of people and a horde of media on the steps of the Shelby County Courthouse.
"It's just a rally and counter-rally," said Madeleine Taylor, Memphis NAACP Executive Director. "We do not need it. It serves no purpose whatsoever, except to spew their message of hate."
For now it appears the city administration will grant a parade permit if one is submitted for a March 30 event. The subject of a possible Klan permit is not on the agenda for Tuesday's city council committee meetings or their regular agenda.
Norman says his organization affirms the rights of others to express their own views, no matter how appalling they maybe.
"The Klan is a declining organization in the United States of America," Norman said. "They do not have the strength and the presence that they once had. They are trying to make a name again for themselves by inciting violence in the city of Memphis. We just are against that and we won't have it."
Norman says he believes a city council appointed group assigned to look into the parks controversy is the best chance for all parties to reach agreement, without the need for input from the Klan.
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