BY TOM ALTER
This column is written and edited by the Young Socialists, an international organization of young workers, students, and other youth fighting for socialism. For more information about the YS, write P.O. Box 2396, New York, NY 10009. Tel: (212) 475-6482, Fax: (212) 388-1659.
BY TOM ALTER
FORT WAYNE, Indiana - On January 13, members of the Young Socialists from Muncie and Bloomington, Indiana, along with another student from Indiana University and members of the Socialist Workers Party in Chicago, traveled here to take part in two demonstrations opposing a rally on the same day by the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
Around 30 Klan members and 80 supporters gathered at the Allen County courthouse and held what they termed a First Amendment Free Speech Rally to protest the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, celebrated January 15.
A week before the Klan action, members of the Detroit- based Revolutionary Workers League (RWL) came here and called for a counterdemonstration at the Klan rally site in order to stop the rightist group "by any means necessary."
The local chapter of the NAACP also called for a separate action for "racial harmony and unity in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King" to be held at the time of the KKK rally. The NAACP, though, in all its press statements said its rally was not a counterdemonstration to the Klan demonstration.
The day of the rally, the RWL and its side group, the National Women's Rights Organizing Coalition, failed to show up and lead the counterdemonstration it had called.
Still, around 250 people did turn out to protest the Klan at the courthouse. The counterdemonstrators were a diverse group of mainly young people, the majority being high school and university students.
The young people I talked to said they came to this mobilization rather than the NAACP rally because they wanted to be part of a counterdemonstration. Many agreed with the NAACP's call for racial unity but disagreed with its tactic of not directly confronting the Klan politically.
Drawing on lessons in the Education for Socialists bulletin Countermobilization: A Strategy to Fight Racist and Fascist Attacks, Young Socialists members explained that the issue at hand was not the Klan's right to free speech but the working class defending its rights against the racists. A few young people were attracted to the ideas of the YS, asked to be sent more information about the Young Socialists, and requested to have YS members speak on their campus.
A young African American said he came to the rally to protest the death of his cousin who was killed by Fort Wayne police a few days earlier. About 400 police officers were present at the rally, equipped with riot gear. Many patrolled the streets in body armor and wielding shotguns.
This led to many conversations concerning the role of the police in capitalist society and in particular their role as attempted strikebreakers at the Detroit Newspaper Agency strike. One woman I talked to was a reporter from Syracuse, Indiana. She was interested in the Militant's coverage of the Detroit strike and wanted to know what was happening at Caterpillar now that the strike there had been called off.
The Klan rally ended after 90 minutes, during which no arrests were made.
A few blocks away, about 300 people attended the NAACP unity rally. The participants were older. The crowd included local government officials. "There is no room in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for the Ku Kux Klan and the hatred they bring," said Rev. Vernon Graham, executive pastor at Associated Churches of Fort Wayne and Allen County.
In all, YS and SWP members sold eight copies of the Militant at the two rallies.
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