In Georgia, reaction to KKK banner is a sign of the times
Very interesting story. A lot of these types of events are popping up everywhere.
I'm glad these people are fighting and not just being quiet about it. No matter the reasoning.
© Matt Aiken/The Dahlonega Nugget City officials take down a KKK sign from a vacant building downtown in Dahlonega, Ga., on Feb. 16. Residents said the banner left them both surprised and scared.
DAHLONEGA, Ga. — The mayor was still home when his phone started ringing. The reverend was still down with the flu when he began getting one message after another. Valerie Fambrough had just dropped off her daughter at day care when she heard.
“Have you seen the sign in the square?” a parent asked her on a cold morning three weeks ago. “There’s a Ku Klux Klan sign in the town square.”
And, in fact, there was. Just past the old brick courthouse and across the street from candy stores and antique shops, a large rectangular banner was screwed tight into the cracked wood siding of a long-vacant building on East Main Street. “Historic Ku Klux Klan Meeting Hall,” it said.
It had a cartoonish drawing of a white-sheeted person raising a hand. In addition, there was a Confederate battle flag at one corner of the building and a red flag with a white cross and the letters KKK at the other. They were fluttering in the wind blowing across Dahlonega, and what happened next would become one more pocket of America dealing with a disturbing incident at a time when hate crimes have been on the rise and new brands of white nationalism have been making a comeback across the country.
In Upstate New York, the home of a Jewish man was spray-painted with swastikas. In Virginia, fliers were distributed in several neighborhoods with the words, “Make America WHITE again-and greatness will follow.” In Colorado, two typewritten notes that read “WERE GONNA BLOW UP ALL OF YOU REFUGEES,” were left at a community center serving mainly Muslim immigrants. Now whatever was happening in other parts of the country seemed to have arrived in Dahlonega.
The mayor got dressed and headed for the square. The reverend called the sheriff. Fambrough recalled how she hurried over to see for herself, saying “No, no, not here,” the whole way, and “Hell,no,” until she was there, alone, staring at the banner.
She was a white 37-year-old mother of two, a program specialist in the biology department at the University of North Georgia who called Dahlonega a “sweet, loving town” and had never protested anything in her life. Now she felt her anger rising. She remembered the flip-chart paper in her trunk left over from a presentation a month before and made two signs — “Not in my town,” she wrote, and “Love Lives Here” — then got out and stood in her sandals holding them.
She was freezing. The square was still quiet, with all the shops closed. She scanned the windows across the street to see if someone was watching. She planned which way she would run if something happened. Cars passed, and she scrutinized each face.
A woman shook her head and kept going.
A man gave her a thumbs-up.
A woman called out of her window, “Did you put that sign up?” and Fambrough said “No, no!” and then Bridget Kahn parked, got out, and now there were the two of them.
A woman in a red minivan stopped and yelled “Y’all are angry! You’re angry, angry people!” and drove off.
A black pickup truck parked across the street, and a muscular man got out, and a reporter from the local paper who’d just arrived told the women it was Chester Doles, a former leader in the Klan and a white-separatist group called the National Alliance who had gone to prison on federal weapons charges. He lived just outside town and was currently a personal trainer who also worked promoting “hate rock” concerts around the country. He pulled out a cellphone and began taking photographs. He said something to the women, but they couldn’t hear.
“What’s that, sir?” Kahn called out, and the women heard him say something about how “glorious” it was to see such a sign in the light of day, and then he drove off, even as more people were arriving — white-haired locals, college students and others who said they were appalled; a Native American man who brought a ladder and tried to rip the banner down; a white man who argued the KKK banner and flag should come down but not the Confederate battle flag; a young black man who stood there crying.
Here came the mayor and the sheriff trying to figure out what was going on.
Here came two pickup trucks circling the square, revving their engines. The woman in the red minivan returned, honking her horn and seeming to veer too close to the protesters.
A school bus passed, and now Fambrough was crying as the town dispatched a cherry picker to the scene, and workers began ratcheting out the first of 21 screws holding the banner in place.
Another truck arrived, this one belonging to a local roofing company and plastered with Confederate logos, and several workers climbed on the roof and began removing the flags.
And that was how the banner came down, and the flags came down, and all the rest began
What's the matter with your life
Is poverty bringing U down?
Is the mailman jerking U 'round?
Did he put your million dollar check
In someone else's box?
Tell me, what's the matter with your world
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