Harrison is trying hard to erase its legacy as a “sundown” town where black people were unwelcome, but the presence of the Ku Klux Klan — however a small percentage its sympathizers may represent of the local population — makes it difficult. See a Southern Poverty Law Center report on a black history event last week at the Harrison library. No black people attended, but 14 “racial patriots” did and raised objections to accounts of the destruction of the Harrison black community in the early 20th century.
“Fourteen racial patriots,” about half of them Knights Party members, filed into the meeting room just before the 5:30 p.m. starting time, Billy Roper, the notorious neo-Nazi son and grandson of a Klansman, said today in a post on the racist web forum Stormfront.
They went, Roper said, “to counter the Anti-White agenda of the ‘Community Task Force on Race Relations,’ which held their Black History Month presentation and hosted an NPR Jewess as a speaker.”
“We easily had the Antis matched, if not outnumbered,” Roper said. “I relished being able to be the first one present to put on my bright yellow ‘Anti-Racist Is A Code Word For Anti-White’ sticker and staring down the anti-White Mayor.”
The mayor differed with some of the facts in Roper’s recitation.
Jeff Crockett, the mayor of Harrison, which is 95 percent white, sighed deeply when he heard about Roper’s account. “That’s total BS about us being outnumbered,” Crockett told Hatewatch today. “There were close to 100 people there and almost everybody had come for the presentation and to commemorate Black History Month.”
KKK leader Thom Robb, who lives nearby, attended and said everyone was polite.
Robb said he told the meeting that “I certainly agree that no one of any color should be harmed or mistreated.” He said, however, that since he did not witness the race riots 100 years ago and neither did anyone else at the meeting no one should “pass judgment pro or con.”
“But I think it’s wrong to just assume that the white people were bad,” Robb said, adding that “while blacks may have been driven from their town, according to what we’re being told, right today, 2014, we can witness millions, not hundreds, but millions of white people that have been driven from their homes – Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and Memphis and every major city in the country.” Robb said his is not a message of hate, but a message of love “for my people.”
Layne Ragsdale, a member of Harrison’s racial task force, seemed skeptical of Robb’s professed brotherly love.
“I believe that’s kind of disingenuous,” Ragsdale said. “They want you to believe that the Klan has changed but they have not changed the name. If you’re under that banner that’s still what people are going to believe.”