While Memphis police are preparing for how to handle the Ku Klux Klan rally from a safety standpoint, Director Toney Armstrong says his number one concern is the mixed crowd that will be in a separate zone from the Klan.
"We're basically sitting on a powder keg that can go at any time," says Armstrong.
KKK supporters, anti-Klan protestors, even gang members possibly from rival gangs: They are all expected to be at the KKK rally in Downtown Memphis on Saturday, and they will all be penned in one area.
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"Certainly just keeping all of the anti-factions from the KKK is challenging enough, but when you add all the complexities of all those people mingling together, there's no way to separate every single entity," says Armstrong, "Mixing gang members, KKK supporters, other factions of KK being involved in mingling in that crowd certainly again, that's… with all that mixing together you got the mix for a powder keg."
Police tell FOX 13 numerous anti-Klan permits were approved for Saturday. Through an Open Records Request we were able to obtain one: The Power to the People's "First Amendment Protest Against the Ku Klux Klan." (Permit is attached in this email to embed)
On the phone, organizers told FOX 13 their event is a reaction to the KKK's rally. They are also upset that police are "creating an armed camp for a Klan safe zone."
Along with the KKK having their own protest area, Memphis police say MATA is loaning busses to bring the KKK to the rally from an undisclosed location. Police say it is strictly a public safety measure.
"You want us to take a chance in 80 different individuals with 80 different cars or do you want to take some additional steps to say, ‘Let me see if I can get all of them together at one time, get them to the site at the exact same time and get them away from the site at the exact same time?'" says Armstrong, "It's not a privilege; it's not some perk that we're giving them. We're looking at it strictly from a public safety standpoint."
Power to the People organizers told FOX 13 they were having a meeting Thursday night about what will happen on Saturday with their event; they said media was not invited.
On the website, Power of Color Organize, where the event is listed (embed link: http://www.peopleofcolororganize.com/activism/general/memphis-anti-klan-demonstration-march-30/) , the event description says, "It is the cops and politicians in Memphis, who are hand-in-hand collaborating with the ‘new' Confederate racists and we must expose and defeat them as well."
Memphis police say they will have a strong law enforcement presence downtown on Saturday – including officers from the city, county and neighboring municipalities – and hope it will deter the crowd from getting violent.