Thursday September 19, 2019
| Last update: Tuesday at 7:06 PM

Minnesota Says: "Can the Klan, Say No to Racism!"

by Kim DeFranco |
August 29, 2001
Read more articles in
A photo of an effigy of a klansman burning at the rally.
Effigy of klansman burns at anti-klan rally. (Fight Back! News/Kim DeFranco)
A photo of the mass protest against the KKK.
3000 protest KKK and neo-nazis at MN State Capitol.

St. Paul, MN - On Aug. 25, 3,000 people came to the State Capitol to stand up against the racist Ku Klux Klan and a group of neo-nazis. Organized by a coalition of community groups called Can the Klan, the demonstrators sent a powerful message against racism and discrimination.

The state government cooperated with the Klan, providing security for their rally. Hundreds of local state and local police were on hand. Police helicopters flew overhead and an armored personnel carrier was parked nearby.

Before the white supremacists came out, the Can the Klan rally started with Michelle Gross, one of the organizers stating, "They are here to recruit and gain a foothold in Minnesota. We can't hand over anybody to the Klan. It's important for everyone who is against the them to come out and speak out against them."

Amid speeches, music, drumming and chants, demonstrators prepared for the Klan's arrival. The crowd was diverse and multinational, as different communities around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area came to express their anger.

People held signs: "No to Racism! No to Klan!" "This is not a time for silence - speak out against racism now!" and "When I was in school, we called it a 'dunce cap'! Hate is stupid!" They chanted, "The people united can never be defeated!" and "George Bush, Ku Klux Klan, Same agenda same plan."

Dede Frances, of the Welfare Rights Committee, stated, "The Welfare Rights Committee fights racism that has been institutionalized. In this state capitol, there are people who make laws and run the government. These rich white people, whether they are official Klan or Nazi members or not, have made laws that are racist, anti-poor, anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-children, and anti-family."

Mick Kelly, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, said "The Klan and Nazis are here to further an agenda of racism and discrimination. Any and all protest against them should be welcomed. We can militantly reject racism, discrimination, national oppression and the Klan." He went on to state that the Klan exists to carry out terror against African Americans, and as such it has no rights that need to be respected.

One hour after the Can the Klan rally opened, the KKK and neo-nazis came out to a roar of boos and jeers. Only 46 white supremacists assembled on the capitol steps. The protesters were about 200 feet away, with 100 cops in the middle and more police in riot gear waiting in the wings.

"Those people on the steps are part of the problem. They use oppressive tactics to keep us down and apart. Today we stand united and strong. We won't let the white supremacists win!" Anh Pham, of the Anti-War Committee, shouted from the stage. The white supremacists tried get to their message out, and occasionally "white power" and pro-Hitler slogans were heard, but the protesters continually drowned them out. An effigy of a Klansman, wearing a confederate flag cape, was burned in the middle of the rally.

Another protester said, "The KKK is a terrorist organization that the U.S. government has condoned for decades. When the government talks about eliminating what it considers "terrorist" groups, these groups are usually militant oppressed people of color."

"Shut 'em up, shut 'em down! Run those racists out of town!" was heard through out the capitol grounds. Eggs were thrown and Nazi sympathizers were chased from the vicinity by protesters. A few brave fighters jumped over the fence to get at the Klan, but were stopped by the line of cops.

Role of the State and Media

State government gave the KKK a permit to speak on the capitol steps. Can the Klan had to fight for its permit to counter rally against the white supremacists. The permit for the anti-racists was not granted until the last minute.

The protest, one of the largest in St. Paul in years, happened in spite of a consistent drumbeat from the press and politicians, who told people not to demonstrate and tried to scare folks away.

Government officials like St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, Capitol Administration and Security, and the state police all tried to prevent the Can the Klan rally. Mayor Coleman went on the air repeatedly to tell people not to come to the anti-Klan protest. He organized an ice cream social as an "alternative" to the demonstration, but less than 200 people stopped by over the course of the day. "I guess people weren't interested in vanilla ice cream that day," one Can the Klan member quipped.

Esther, of the Committee to Defend Mumia Abu Jamal, said of Coleman's tactics, "It turned out to be an advertisement for the Can the Klan rally. Coleman told people to stay away but they came anyway. It's like having bullies coming into your yard, you just wouldn't ignore that."

TV, radio stations and newspapers either echoed the stay away message or had programs debating the idea of ignoring hate groups or not. Some mainstream agencies, like the YWCA, broke off from Can the Klan, and warned of violence if the Klan was confronted. YWCA sponsored a rally the night before. Despite all the pressure, the protesters still out outnumbered the racists 65 to 1.