City of Memphis approves KKK demonstration permit - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

City of Memphis approves KKK demonstration permit

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Confederate Park is now called Memphis Park. Confederate Park is now called Memphis Park.
Nathan Bedford Forrest Park was renamed Health Sciences Park. Nathan Bedford Forrest Park was renamed Health Sciences Park.
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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - A permit was issued to the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, allowing them to hold a rally on March 30 in Memphis.

The group filed for the permit last week. After days of discussion, the City of Memphis approved it. According to the permit application, the group is expecting 180 participants.

MPD Director Toney Armstrong is emphasizing that his primary focus is public safety.

"I've been in discussion with the City Attorney and other members of the Administration, and I have been reminded of the legal issues that apply. But in the end, my primary focus is the safety of the public and all involved," Armstrong explained. "It will be in all of our best interest to have a demonstration where we are able to work with this group in setting the do's and don'ts."

He continued, "My team has a strategy that will ensure everyone's safety. What we absolutely do not want is some unplanned, spontaneous demonstration where my team has not been involved in planning and set-up."

The KKK is planning the protest after the city council renamed three parks that honored the Confederacy.

Originally, Memphis City Council member Myron Lowery wanted to rename Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, to Forrest Wells Park to honor anti-lynching journalist Ida B. Wells.

"Do I feel responsible, of course not, I only wanted to honor that name in this city," Lowery said.

Lowery's resolution followed controversy over a large granite stone with the name, Forrest Park on it. The stone was purchased and placed in the park by the Sons of Confederate Veterans without permission from the city.

That group does not feel responsible for the planned Klan visit and is encouraging people to ignore the Klan rally.

"The Sons of Confederate Veterans have absolutely nothing to do with the Klan. They just did that on their own to protest the renaming of the park," Lee Millar of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said.

Nathan Bedford Forrest Park was originally named after a one-time Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. The city council is now calling it Health Sciences Park. Confederate Park is now called Memphis Park. The third park to acquire a new name was Jefferson Davis Park. It is now being called Mississippi River Park.

Armstrong said the rally will be held on Easter weekend, but he does not want it to cause concern among the public.

"I want to encourage Memphians to enjoy their holiday weekend with their family and loved ones. And rest assured that MPD is prepared, and we will keep the peace," he said.

Armstrong said the MPD will commit additional officers to the rally in addition to getting help from the sheriff's office and other local police departments. Some officers assigned to the operation are already getting riot training.

"I honestly think that you're probably going to have more police officers than you do people representing this organization," said Armstrong.

He admits he would rather no one else show up at the courthouse, but acknowledges that everyone has the right to protest.

Memphis' attorney, Herman Morris, also commented on the approval of the permit.

"We have known from the beginning that denying this application would result in a legal fight on constitutionality that would be long, divisive, expensive, and that would unnecessarily prolong the decision," he said. "We have all, however, been very attune to Director Armstrong's review given the critical role the Memphis Police Department will play in a proposed demonstration."

Minister Kennith Van Buren is part of Direct Action Memphis, a group that filed for its own permit for the same day, same location in order to send a different message.

"Our initial reaction was to counteract their action," he said. "We're not going to confront them in a violent manner, but we are going to confront them in a non-violent manner."

Regardless of affiliation, Armstrong says everyone in the area will be subject to increased scrutiny in a strict, zero-tolerance atmosphere.

"I took an oath. I took an oath to serve and protect. And I didn't take an oath that I'd only be able to protect certain groups of people," said Armstrong. "But at the end of the day, they'll come here, they'll get their 15 minutes, and we'll send them out of here on the next thing smoking."

City Councilman Myron Lowery wonders who is really coming to the rally.

"We've received emails from three or four different groups all proclaiming to be the certified Ku Klux Klan," Lowery said.

The permit issued to the group rallying has some restrictions. They aren't allowed to carry guns or wear masks. Police Director Toney Armstrong said the department will be ready for the rally.

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