BY JANICE ORTEGA
COLUMBUS, Ohio - On January 6 the Ku Klux Klan held a demonstration here on the steps of the State Capitol to protest the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Several hundred demonstrators turned out to oppose the Klan's rightist, anti-working-class message. Later that afternoon over 60 people attended a planning meeting sponsored by the Columbus Anti Racist Action (ARA), a network of antiracist groups.
The activists discussed how to expand the ARA, how to attract a more multicultural membership, and how to build bigger counterdemonstrations to oppose future Klan rallies. They also debated whether anti-Klan demonstrators should go into the "pen" - territory the cops rope off to encircle the area where the Klan will speak. Anyone wishing to hear the racists or yell at them from close range has to pass through a metal detector and be frisked by the cops.
Those who voted to stay outside the pen voiced concern about violence, especially by the cops and mounted police. One young woman explained, "I don't want to get trapped inside that pen. The cops have the billy clubs and the mace. We don't."
Many protesters traveled some distance to counter the rightists. A young woman from Brooklyn, New York, said she came to protest the Klan "because their racist ideas are from the past."
Fourteen students drove here from the University of Pittsburgh. Most of them belong to the New Youth Culture, a group they are just now starting up. One of them said, "Everyone has a right, but they've taken it too far. We have the right to oppose them and that's what we're here for."
Some anti-Klan rally participants staffed a Pathfinder table and many people stopped to look through the revolutionary books and pamphlets, and the Militant newspaper. A student from Ann Arbor, Michigan, said he and his friends "heard some of the Klan members here today were from Michigan, so we felt a responsibility to come." Asked if he wanted the Militant, he said he had $1 left, so his friend pitched in to help buy a copy. "I really do want to buy it because it has a lot on Che. He's my man." He is interested in the new book Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War and took Pathfinder's address.
One passerby from China exclaimed, "It's so rare to see these books here!" He arrived in the United States one month after the government crackdown on pro-democracy students at Tiananmen Square. He picked up a copy of the Militant.
A man from Columbus and a woman from Cleveland were looking at the titles on the book table and discussing the day's events. She said authorities should have banned the Klan from speaking. He responded, "If they do that then pretty soon they're going to ban us from speaking. That's how our rights slip away and people don't realize it." He signed up on the Young Socialists mailing list and she purchased two books.
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