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Flyer Flashback

20 Years of The Memphis Flyer



In honor of the Flyer's 20 anniversary, we're looking back at past stories.

On January 17, 1998, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally downtown to demonstrate against Martin Luther King Day. The Flyer had several reporters on the scene. This is from Phil Campbell's cover story in the January 22, 1998, issue:

"The Ku Klux Klan won, and most Memphians couldn't even get close enough to see them in their sheets, screaming their racial epithets.

"The American Knights of the KKK won because they accomplished exactly what they had set out to do. As police shot canisters of 'Clear Out' tear gas into a growing crowd of anti-Klan protesters, Memphis Police Director Walter Winfrey had the white supremacists escorted from the courthouse steps to their cars more than a block away.

"And, as anti-Klan protesters — some gang members, most not — ran through the streets of downtown chased by police, Klan members were able to set their VCRs so they could watch themselves on the evening news. The Klan had gotten the media attention they wanted, both locally and nationally, without so much as stubbing a toe in the process. The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which city officials had hoped to celebrate with dignity and some pomp, was mostly forgotten. ...

"The event was, all at once, a spectacle, a significant moment in history, an insult the mayor should have prevented, a sign that racism is dying in America, an indication that Memphis had been set back 30 years, a chance to express nonviolent protest, a potential opportunity to cause trouble. It was a moment of unity and another example of our divided society. Whites clustered together with whites and chanted left-wing ideology while blacks stayed with other blacks, played Tupac Shakur, and danced a hip-hop of protest."

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