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‘Klu, Klux, Flop’ & free speech

  • Written by Kelvin Cowans

KKKKlanMain-600It took me a while to actually realize what I was witnessing. My preliminary thoughts could've been that of the collective nature of many Memphians. The thought that Memphis Mayor AC Wharton Jr. and Police Director Toney Armstrong should've have urged denying the Klu Klux Klan a permit for their Easter weekend rally in downtown Memphis.

Yes, I've heard the conversations bouncing off of barbershop walls that Armstrong needs to focus on his officers, many of whom seem to have lost their People Skills Manual of late. I was later part of a conversation – more like a debate – about the "not-so-black" decisions that our mayor makes. During my time at this Wing Joint, I promise you that the Flaming Hot Wings would be considered ice cold when compared to what they had to say.

Then comes the day of the KKK rally and you would've thought that President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, Sasha, Maliya, their Grandma and the dog Bo were about to walk down Adams Street. That's how thick the police presence was.

KKKCheckpoints-600Some yelled over-kill on the security effort and another spoke of a waste of taxpayers' money. Personally, I believe that if you need that amount of security so that you can say something, then chances are you probably shouldn't be saying it.

Now this is exactly where the real story starts. Yes, I hear you my brother and dig that my sister, but bare with me a few more lines because we may have all missed the point.

The reverend and civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose death we are about observe for the 45th time this week, may have left us a lesson that we never realized. During his time, he marched for the equal rights of not just African Americans, but all people. He preached nonviolence. He truly believed that although the rules and laws said that certain people in America shouldn't be allowed to vote, or eat here, or get educated there, or drink water with this group, or play games with that group, that the rules and laws weren't right. Even when he and the other like-minded people of his time joined hands on many occasions to march in protest of what they believed was wrong, they did so knowing that they would be stopped.

KKKSecurity-600Can you imagine that? A man who preached nonviolence and simply exercised his right of freedom of speech was terrorized on many occasions, along with his followers and supporters. He was spit at, had batteries thrown at him and was even stabbed on one occasion.

Back to the present and with complete clarity of thought, I submit to you that Mayor Wharton and Police Director Armstrong may have just been ahead of the curve when it comes to allowing people their right to freedom of speech. This is the same right that Dr. King was denied.

Please understand, I don't condone what the KKK stands for, or the exhibition that they put on this past weekend. And I will be the first to tell you that had not the police been there, the crowd of protestors, which numbered over 1,000 to the KKK's more like 40 participants, may have had their way with them if order was not in place.

kelvin-cowans-300In hindsight, it should make us all wonder just what did the KKK accomplish. The designated area where we stood (protestors and media) was so far away that one person yelled that if the KKK was insulting him they would have to speak up. It rained the entire time, one protestor got arrested and one of the police officers on horseback had a really cool colored horse.

So, what we really witnessed was a perfectly-executed riot drill by the Memphis Police Department, Shelby County Sheriff's Office and supporting and surrounding security agencies of myriad kinds. Knowing Memphis as I do, I'm glad they did get a chance to practice their riot drill, because you never know.

(Kelvin Cowans can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )


0 #5 benqq 2013-11-11 20:12
An "actual" journalist? Does that mean someone with a J "degree"? Actually, yes. Does that mean someone with an employer publication relationship? Actually, no. Does that mean someone who has worked with nationally media formulating stories? Actually, yes.

+2 #4 Kel Cowans 2013-04-04 19:30
@Lou thanks for helping me remember and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as I did research many of his famous quotes today even 45 years after his death 4-4-2013.
Here's one of many I found that is completely awesome!!!

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity".
+1 #3 Woody 2013-04-01 21:28
Why do you have to be so negative if they had not had enough security you would be saying they should have had enough security give them a break .
+2 #2 BenQQ 2013-04-01 11:54
I liked the nuance of your commentary, but I do think the city should try to find a balance between free speech and public safety. And that was a great line about the police needing
some "people skills," Perhaps a military posture somehow influences military crowd control? Here's another commentary...

-2 #1 Lou 2013-04-01 10:21
..."bare" with me? Are you an actual journalist?

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