The Lessons We Should Learn from the KKK Rally in Anaheim

Anaheim, CA (TFC) – Over the weekend, the Klu Klux Klan staged a rally at Pearson Park in Anaheim.  They were met by a multiracial crowd of outraged locals and anti-fascists who staged a counter protest.  Unfortunately, clashes soon broke out and the situation spiraled out of control.  This resulted in three people suffering stab wounds and thirteen people, including six KKK members, under arrest.  Many have hailed these clashes as an act of resistance against bigotry and racism in the United States.  However, while I am sympathetic to this sentiment, violence like this will only strengthen the white supremacist movement.

The clashes in Anaheim started on Saturday 27 February when KKK members arrived in Anaheim to take part in a planned rally.  They were met with anti-fascist counter protesters.  Clashes soon broke out when some of the counter protesters attacked the KKK members.  The KKK members, who were apparently anticipating a fight, responded by stabbing three people from the anti-fascist camp with knives and a flagpole.  The police moved in and made thirteen arrests, effectively ending the clashes.

In the aftermath of the clashes, the anti-fascists who engaged in the clashes have been hailed as heroes for standing up to the KKK.  However, while I fully support anti-fascism, the fact is that the anti-fascists used violence against those who were acting in a legal manner and were expressing constitutionally-protected speech.  Since these KKK members have the law on their side, I fear that these clashes could actually help white supremacist organizations.

So how will these clashes help white supremacists?  First, these clashes will likely result in a financial windfall for the KKK.  The KKK will likely file a lawsuit against Anaheim for failing to protect them.  This will likely result in a lucrative legal settlement for the KKK, which will be used to fund future rallies.  In addition, any settlement could be used for propaganda purposes as the KKK will almost certainly claim it as a political victory.  Some might argue that there is no way that such a reviled group could possibly win a lawsuit against a city.  However, other reviled hate groups, like the Westboro Baptist Church, have won numerous lawsuits against local governments, making large sums of money in the process.

Image Source: Cuauhtemoc-Hidalgo Villa-Zapata, Flickr, Creative Commons KKK

Image Source: Cuauhtemoc-Hidalgo Villa-Zapata, Flickr, Creative Commons

The use of violence at the Anaheim rally also provided the KKK with a large amount of media coverage.  If there had been no violence at the rally, I doubt that media coverage of the event would have gone beyond the local media.  However, since violence broke out, the rally achieved national media coverage and even featured on the front page of international media outlets like BBC and Al Jazeera.

Unfortunately, this will help with recruitment for white supremacist organizations.  These organizations often draw their membership from disenfranchised young white men.  The narrative that white supremacist organizations espouse is that white people are being “oppressed” by minorities.  White supremacist organizations will use the violence at the Anaheim rally will to support their narrative.  Video footage of people of color beating KKK members will probably be used to “prove” that racial minorities are waging a war against white people.  As a result, the violence that took place in Anaheim will only give these organizations more credibility which will help their recruiting efforts.  If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to take a look at the video below and think about how easily white supremacist groups could manipulate it to support their claims that they are being oppressed.  Furthermore, since this played out over international media, this could easily help American white supremacist groups to gain the sympathy of far-right groups in other countries.  This would open up the possibility of international cooperation between white supremacist groups across the globe.  This will only help white supremacist groups, which will strengthen their movement and make them a bigger threat down the road.

Lastly, there is the risk of the escalation of violence.  Following the fiasco at the rally, white supremacists are already out looking for revenge.  The day after the rally, white supremacists attacked people in Lake Los Angeles.  This attack was almost certainly related to the events in Anaheim.  Hate crimes like these are almost certain to continue in the future.

Contrary to popular belief, the use of violence at the KKK rally in Anaheim was not a productive response to their vile white supremacist ideology.  In fact, this use of violence will almost certainly benefit the white supremacist movement.  Although using violence against people who hold vile ideologies is the natural response, we need to be mindful of the unintended consequences that it can have and be sure to act rationally.  Otherwise, hate groups will continue to use our lack of restraint to their advantage.