March Against KKK

About 85 people marched through downtown Brattleboro November 5 chanting, “Hey hey, ho, ho, the KKK has got to go.” On October 29, someone put KKK literature in the mailboxes of two African American women in Burlington, Vermont, that city's police chief said. The KKK, whose membership is limited to white people, is responsible for the murder by lynching of hundreds, and possibly thousands, of African Americans in the USA between 1877 and 1950. The KKK still has thousands of members.

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This photo was taken in Brattleboro on November 5. To enlarge the photo, click on it, then scroll down and click "see full size image." photo by Eesha Williams

On June 18, Dylann Roof, a white man, shot and killed nine African American people at a church in South Carolina. The New York Times published a photo of the killer holding a confederate flag. In July, in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, near Northampton, the owner of CRD Metalworks, took down a prominent confederate flag following community pressure. In August, a photo of a confederate flag hanging from the front porch of a house in Brattleboro appeared in a local newspaper.

Bruce Levine is a history professor at the University of Illinois. In June, Levine wrote, “The Confederate States of America firmly and emphatically stood for slavery and white supremacy from its birth. Modern-day racists like Roof who brandish Confederate symbols are not distorting their meaning. On the contrary: these racists stand squarely within the Confederate tradition.”

In 2008, about 40 students at the public high school in Brattleboro formed a group called the Nigger Hanging Redneck Association. One of the members of the group, a 17 year-old male, used a gun to threaten students of color. Around the same time, someone used plywood and spray paint to make racist signs, and put the signs along a road in Vernon, Vermont, which borders Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

In 1987, in Putney, Vermont, near Brattleboro, someone burned a cross in the yard of Earl Johnson, an African American man. The New York Times quoted Johnson saying someone in a truck shot a gun at him but missed. The KKK is famous for burning crosses. In 1982, at the Brattleboro town common, 24 people dressed in white KKK robes held a recruiting event.

In 2014, Migrant Justice (www.migrantjustice.net), a group of Latino farmworkers in Vermont, successfully lobbied the state legislature and governor to grant them drivers licenses, even though they were undocumented immigrants. In January 2015, Billy Peard, a lawyer in Springfield, Massachusetts, wrote, "The Vermont DMV at locations close to the Massachusetts border has engaged in a systematic effort to entrap undocumented driver license applicants.... Hispanic applicants were told that they would need to return the following day to apply for the license (not true). When the applicant returned the following day, as instructed, ICE or Border Patrol was waiting for them in the lobby. In all circumstances, the applicants were placed into custody and are now in removal proceedings as best I know."

Between 2003 and 2013, the number of people in state prison in Vermont increased by 10 percent, while the state's population increased by 1 percent. About 10 percent of the people in Vermont prisons are African American. Just 1 percent of people in Vermont are black.

About 14 percent of Americans are black. About 38 percent of people in American prisons are black. No other nation on earth incarcerates such a high percentage of its people. As of 2008, the USA had about 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. "England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63." That's according to "U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations," an article by Adam Liptak that appeared in the New York Times on April 23, 2008. Those numbers were virtually unchanged as of 2013.

The book "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond explains why the average black person is much poorer than the average white person. Rich people can afford better lawyers.

The Brattleboro march started at 5:30 p.m. It was organized by Shela Linton of the Vermont Workers Center, Alex Fischer of the Root Social Justice Center, and others. They can be reached via their web sites: www.WorkersCenter.org and www.TheRootSJC.org.

While the chances of dramatically reducing the USA's prison population may seem small, in 1989, the chances of Nelson Mandela -- who was then seven years into a life sentence in prison -- becoming president of South Africa were also small. In 1994, Mandela was elected president and one of the world’s most brutal and racist governments was overthrown.

In the United States, 150 years ago, ending slavery and granting women the right to vote both seemed unlikely. Mass movements of ordinary people won justice.

Comments

New Anti-Racism Song Premiered at Anti-KKK Rally

We Stand Against All Racism
(words by John V. Wilmerding)

We stand against all racism
stand fast for liberty
for freedom is our heritage
not white supremacy
we live in firm and deep resolve
to keep all people free
emancipate from state to state
from sea to shining sea

We stand against all racism
we’re called into the fray
non-violently we persevere
in struggle, day to day
no need for violence to be done
to lay oppression low
for fighting cannot free the ones
who’re lost but do not know

We stand against all racism
no fear can keep us down
no dangers cause us to desist
conferring freedom’s crown
forever shall we stand our ground
for all posterity
with deep resolve we shall ensure
humanity stays free

We stand against all racism
opposing bigotry
our hands are joined as we defend
birth-right, and legacy
with strength in numbers we aver
all human beings are free
and peace and justice shall prevail
thus universally

[after ‘I Am An Abolitionist’ by William Lloyd Garrison (1841), and sung to the tune of ‘Auld Lang Syne’]

A march and a chant

Thank you for the article, I had no idea that hatred was being channeled the way of KKK in VT. Marching and standing up for the dignity of every human being shows there is a certain morality at play in your area. Yes, I hope those dealing in hate and violence will be dealt with before more people are harmed. Can groups and organizations and societies with a message of caring and transformation (from the inside out) be called on to deal with kids identified at risk for hate crimes? Condemnation is not enough

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