RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition who publishes zines & physical books & electronic books & music & photography & digital art & just generally whatever feels necessary to survive this deluded earth thru Rojonekku Word Fighting Arts survival systems (Version 69, establish 14 Feb 1973). Comments encouraged.

Monday, July 10

[2k=0] A View From the Charlottesville KKK Rally

(Being held back by police from the Klan above is local freestyle MC Versity Rell, who I ran across after the rally. Rell's a solid dude, and a Christian man, who was insulted the Klan had Bible quotes on their posters, and told me he wanted nothing more than to break down scripture for them a little deeper than they had apparently gotten around to on their own.)

This past weekend, in the year 2017, a fading remnant of what calls itself the Ku Klux Klan held a protest in Charlottesville, near where I live. It was an organized and permitted protest relating to the local city council voting to tear down old Civil War monuments in what were until a few months ago known as Lee and Jackson Parks, now called Emancipation and Justice Parks. This Klan outfit was not locally-based, but instead out of rural North Carolina, about two-and-a-half hours down US 29, just across the state line from Danville. But this outside Klan group applied for and received permit to protest, first at Lee (Emancipation) Park, which was moved to Jackson (Justice) Park once local authorities realized what was going to happen. Various counter-rallies were set up, with varying degrees of privileged removal from acknowledging the Klan protest’s existence.
In the days headed up to this, my ol’ lady was pretty adamant about attending, but we were going to be out of town initially; however, upon ending up back in town, she wanted to go. We weren’t going to take our kids to the event, because the human chemistry was not conducive to a safe environment for young ones, but she wanted to go. Yet the fact of the matter is, we still live in a patriarchal society where predatory forces swoop in on women far easier than men, so when either of us was going to end up having to go alone, it ended up being me who went (much to my wife’s anger and dismay after the fact, as she was far more motivated at first, and it was her discussion of the events that ended up stoking my fires to attend).
Initially, as I said, the Klan rally was set for Lee (Emancipation) Park, so I went there, despite everything having been moved. I figured if it was originally set for there, and it was about that particular statue mostly, then somebody would show up. My only intention was to honestly just mad dog racists, because from external social judgments, I’m a bearded white man, a rural one at that, from lower socio-economic background – target demographic for them. So really all I wanted to do was stand there and look like a dick, hopefully with others, and disrupt whoever showed up. I saw a few straggling folks with confederate flag bandanas who wandered into and away from the park, as well as cluster of angry-eyed men very obviously from their phone conversations, there for the Klan. All of these folks (in retrospect) were likely interested attenders simply showing up, because they were not part of the actual Klan group given head of state treatment and police security into and out of the actual protest at the park two blocks away, while surrounded by anti-Klan counter-protestors.
Saying these racist men and women were given a police escort is an understatement. In the normal mind, one would imagine they were given a permit to protest, and police were on-hand to guarantee there were no skirmishes (especially after Klan members proclaimed they’d be open carrying weapons in the days leading up). But the police escort was a far more deeply coordinated effort than that, involving giving the Klan entourage nearby parking in a closed (and perhaps government-related) parking garage, full escort into the park, and then hustled back out, literally through a local courthouse, out the back door into a side door of the parking garage, and then police lined that street to keep anti-Klan protestors from even getting near their vehicles as they drove off, middle fingers being sent both directions. How was this coordinated in the days leading up to the protest, I wondered? This was far more than simple allowing a permit. Emails or phone calls had to go back-and-forth, between police authorities and the Ku Klux Klan, relaying where they’d park, how they’d be shuttled in, and out as well. Hell, somebody from the Klan could’ve called a state police representative to say, “Hey, we’re leaving the hotel now, headed y’all’s way” for all we know. But a high level of coordination was necessary for things to play out the way they did.
Once the Klan left, what you had left was a few hundred angry counter-protestors who were righteously upset that the entire time, the somewhat militarized police had been pointed at them, not the Klan. The police formed a human barricade protecting the wretched racism of a (thankfully) dying organization. And it was not lost on many of the counter-protestors, what with the American current events regarding police behavior – both nationally and locally – the past few years that the line of emotionless faces in blue (and military olive) uniforms in front of them were a far more active force than what those rural racists in satin robes who had just high-tailed it out of town represented. In other words, the racist infrastructure facing us as actual threat today is not a ponytailed Loyal White Knight from rural North Carolina, but the ones that appear to be perfectly normal. And in terms of the police, it’s one that often has a diverse-looking front line, albeit one that has a deeply-ingrained “my police brothers are always right, even when wrong” collective psychology.
My philosophical leanings are probably obvious, and I will transparently clarify I was right there, facing off against the police line at this point, yelling at them along with the others. I do not pretend to be up front, but I was there, taking part, but also observing. As the State Police retreated up the hill a block from the (government) parking garage they had helped the Klan get out of safely, angry protestors followed them. For no readily obvious reason, State Police made a circle arbitrarily in the middle of the street themselves. Protestors continued to surround, entirely unarmed, but angry. Understand as well that the police at this point was equipped in riot gear, with shields and gas masks at hand, as they had been mostly for the better part of the entire event. I stood at the edge of this circle, and saw as they arbitrarily declared an entrance to a garage was supposed to be cleared and arrested a young woman who just happened to be continuing to walk in a direction she had already been walking. A few minutes later, their reasoning became more clear, as a pair of armored personnel carriers exited the garage. But who was to know? This wasn’t a “no walking” zone in the seconds before the young woman was arrested. I was standing right there myself, in fact.
Not long after this, as protestors continued to be in the street, as that is where the police led them honestly, the cops formed a football huddle, broke into a full formation and put up their shields and started pushing forward. Again, I know because where I was standing, which was not in harm’s way when they were huddled moments earlier (and actually was at the edge of the street, no more than two feet off the curb) suddenly became harm’s way, and I got fenced out the way indiscriminately. Those protestors in the middle of the street had nowhere to go but backwards, but as is human condition to respond, if you are suddenly being forced backwards without warning, you’re gonna be like “whoa, what the fuck?” So a small group of protestors attempted to lock arms and remain in the street. The cops stopped pushing, and held their arbitrary line for a while, before – again, without a discernible reason – dropping a teargas canister right beside a couple of the protestors. It happened so quickly and without warning and so directly beside the edge of the cluster of no more than a dozen protestors (versus a line of at least 30 cops, with many more around) that I initially thought the protestors had set something off. Interestingly enough, media reports and the allegedly progressive mayor of Charlottesville’s statement afterwards do the same – suggesting protestors initiated conflict by releasing pepper spray of some sort. There was no visible evidence of this, and I would guarantee you the only validation one will find for this are police statements.
The teargas, from my distance of 20 feet away, was not overwhelming but had definite effect. I put a bandana over my nose and mouth to lessen the effects, as did many others. You could see where the teargas was having a burning effect on those closer though, on both their skin and in their eyes. Various people (myself included) attempted to find water to take them, and prepared street medics gave those affected the worst more appropriate treatments than water as available.
After a continuing stand-off like this, and after the Virginia State Police let off two more teargas canisters into the gathered crowd, for whatever reason, the police thankfully decided to retreat like the Klan had already. But again, for reasons not entirely discernible, the Charlottesville police then made a line half a block away, and an African-American woman was pepper sprayed by them. There was no threat visible down there, or reason for them to suddenly decide to enforce a line after the Virginia State Police had retreated, but they did so, and then promptly retreated to Jackson (Justice) Park themselves, where a smaller remnant of state and local police just hovered around while remaining protestors continued to make necessary noise about how things had gone down.
It was very striking for anyone who remained who the police security had only secured the outside Klan members the entire afternoon, and once the majority of counter-protestors were gone, had acted in unnecessarily aggressive ways against counter-protestors. I guess freedom of speech, though allegedly of framework importance to our notions of how America is exceptional, only applies if you’ve filed the proper paperwork well in advance.
About two dozen people – all counter-protestors against the Klan – were arrested over the course of affairs, with four being charged with felonies, three for wearing a mask in public. Ironically enough, this statute is on Virginia state code due to existence of the Ku Klux Klan in the first place. But it was used against counter-protestors who had covered their face in the teargas chaos initiated by police. And even then it was not enforced across the board but against random individuals.
One of those random individuals is a young man who is friends with my eldest daughter. If you read the news article about the incidences and the resulting charges, he is the one with the Latino name. That fact cannot be ignored, because he was a young man who reluctantly attended, out of moral imperative, and was by no means an outside agitator or career activist looking to make trouble. Yet in a small crowd of counter-protestors, including many white people, and with others far more emphatic about their desire to confront the police, this young Hispanic man was arrested and charged with felony mask wearing.
The Ku Klan Klan is gone, safely home, and back at their regular lives today. Not one of them faced any legal issues whatsoever, and were given safe harbor by the police and local authorities, coordinated beforehand. I don’t know about anyone else arrested, but I know this young man had to appear in court today, hear the charges against him, be assigned a defender, and fear for his future. He had to fear for it in a legal sense, as well social sense, as the racial forces pointed at him – both the archaic dying ones like the Klan as well as the modern active ones like the police – have not gone away.

Oddly enough, in the hour I spent in Lee (Emancipation) Park before going to where the craziness was going down, I shared benches, chatting with a few different dudes, mostly all African-American guys, a few of which were sitting there getting lit, and offering commentary on the entire spectacle. One dude told me he heard the city was gonna spend $350,000 to take down these Confederate statues, an act which helped trigger the arrival of a small Ku Klux Klan outfit from hours away. This is while the major public housing facilities a couple blocks south have not had well-functioning heating or air for years, and where complaints of mold have been ongoing, as have juvenile asthma issues. “You know how many houses you could fix up with that much money?” the dude said. “Or with all the money for all these damn police?” he added as a police helicopter gathering cell phone data continuously circled overhead. “It don’t make no goddamn sense.”

1 comment:

mo said...

Raven you always tell a good story and make good points. Your voics is so distincy. Thank you for sharing it is nice to read about it without the hysteria. Need a word for hysteria that doesnt target uteruses though.