Thousands of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members are coming to Memphis, Tennessee, for what the KKK says is the largest rally they've ever had.
Local news station ABC News 24 reports that the issue surrounds the renaming of three historical Memphis parks.
The KKK wants to rally in what has been renamed "Health Sciences Park," which used to memorialize former "grand wizard" and Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest.
In addition to Forrest Park, the downtown Confederate and Jefferson Davis Parks were temporarily renamed and may never go back.
"Shane," an anonymous member of the KKK, told ABC News that the City Council's plans are an attempt to erase history. "We're a Christian-based organization now," he said, "and we ain't out to start a race riot or anything, but we feel that it is wrong that they're trying to change the name of our park and we're going to stand up for that." He told reporters that the local Klan has already been in contact with organizations around the country to join in the "peaceful protest for change" to be held by the end of this month. "We're not out to start trouble," Shane claimed. "We're just standing up for our race."
While Shane claims that the KKK is "now" a Christian organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center notes that the Klan has characterized itself as a Christian organization for over a century:
The Ku Klux Klan, with its long history of violence, is the most infamous - and oldest - of American hate groups. Although black Americans have typically been the Klan's primary target, it also has attacked Jews, immigrants, gays and lesbians and, until recently, Catholics. Over the years since it was formed in December 1865, the Klan has typically seen itself as a Christian organization, although in modern times Klan groups are motivated by a variety of theological and political ideologies.
Memphis was the scene of a violent protest on Martin Luther King Day in 1998, when police fired tear gas on demonstrators as they advanced on a KKK rally. Lee Miller of the Sons of the Confederacy remembers the event, telling ABC News, "We really hope that they don't come to Memphis. The Klan just has a bad reputation." Miller agrees that the park name should remain but doesn't want the Klan involved.
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