I read an article (attached below) regarding the response from city officials and the NAACP regarding the planned Klu Klux Klan rally on March 30th at what was formerly known as Nathan Bedford Forrest Park on Union Ave. I've read from multiple sources that most believe the best response to the possibility of this rally is to stay at home and ignore their protests. The NAACP is considering holding a counter-protest at an off-site location rather than confront the Klan directly. I also have heard from sources that the Mid South Peace and Justice Center is considering a plan to hold a circus at Forrest Park in their own sense of non-violent direct action against the Klan on that day.
The response to that kind of threat in 2013 has to be well thought-out. The Klan has the first-amendment right to assembly, and that right is being granted to them in Memphis in late March. The question becomes, how does Memphis, Tennessee respond to a Klan rally in the 21st century? Do we use the tactics used in the 1950s and 1960s to protest against the Klan, or does the response have to change with the rise in mass social media? This rally has already garnered national attention to the issues surrounding the renaming of Memphis city parks. Forrest’s name has been heard around the country, his legacy (tone withstanding) is being recaptured through these conversations. One can make the argument that the media attention that would come from any counter-protest or conflict between groups would only legitimate the Klan’s plans to rally. Racial tensions could heighten, and Memphis could have another public event with high racial tensions and conflict attached to its city’s name.
I think plans to encourage an off-site counter-protest that promotes diversity and celebrates equality provides the best opportunity to move against what it is this group is standing for in rallying to protest the changing of the names of the parks. While a counter-protest on-site at Forrest Park would be my initial reaction, the fact is that it would likely only heighten the attention to both the Klan and the controversy surrounding the parks in Memphis. I would rather our city not move backwards in its language of acceptance by gaining national media attention around an event like the Klan rally going south. They have no legitimate claims in modern society, and to protest them only gives them fuel for garnering media attention.