Would you let ISIS gather in your town center? How about Boko Haram? You would never let the Taliban hold a rally in your town, so why would you let the KKK?
This week, 50 members of the Ku Klux Klan gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. Lee led the Confederate army in the Civil War, which ultimately ended slavery in the United States. Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer said the removal of the statue was, “to tell the truth about race in our history, and systemic racism.”
The Klan rally lasted about half an hour, and were met with at least 1,000 counter protesters . The Klansmen were escorted in and out of the rally safely by both local and state police. This aspect confused many at the rally. Why are we protecting terrorist organizations? Why are they allowed to gather at all?
The Ku Klux Klan is defined as a terrorist organization by TRAC, the Terrorist Research and Analysis Consortium. Such terrorist groups often cite the first amendment as for why they are allowed to gather in public places. Yet, a debate still continues: why do we let known violent groups gather publicly?
There is a certain image Americans associate with the word “terrorist.” Although terrorists who attack in America are disproportionately white, far-right media and years of institutionalized racism trained the public to associate people of color with terrorism. The majority of white terrorists aren’t even labeled as terrorists by the media, and therefore the public doesn’t label them as terrorists. This is dangerous, because it creates a world of sympathy surrounding white terrorists that is inappropriate and unjust. It is a sympathy that excuses them from the same treatment we extend to other terrorists. For example, barring them from gathering in public places. Letting groups like the KKK assemble in public is dangerous, because it emphasizes the pitfalls of free speech. Although letting everyone speak protects democracy, some speech is detrimental to the advancement of our society. Free speech from hate groups further separates minorities from American identity. The KKK shouldn’t be protected by police, and they shouldn’t avoid the terrorist label just because they’re white.
If ISIS was an American-based group, would they be allowed to gather in the streets? Would they be protected by our police, with our tax dollars paying for that protection?
No. And it should be the same for every terrorist.