Logan Maxwell came to protest of the Ku Klux Klan's parade armed with only a saxophone. On a clear Saturday morning, he and his friends drove an hour and a half to Pelham, North Carolina, where the KKK march was set to happen, to join over 100 other protesters from all around the country. With his brass instrument slung over his chest, Maxwell was intent on disrupting the Klan's celebration of President-elect Donald Trump.
"If I can show the people marching in support of the KKK there's an alternative mentality that's willing to get out and show them, it's only a matter of time before that dies away," Maxwell said.
Trump's presidential win has seemingly emboldened the KKK to be more visible. Within 48 hours of his election in November, The Loyal White Knights of Pelham announced plans to celebrate with a parade on December 3, although they didn't provide a time or location. On their website, they called the parade a "Victory Klavalkade Klan Parade" and added "Trump = Trump's Race United My People." (North Carolina GOP chairman Robin Hayes condemned the KKK's planned parade honoring Trump, saying, "We are disgusted and condemn this extremist ideology and associated actions in the strongest possible terms.")
KKK membership in the US saw an extreme increase in 2015, and Klan-affiliated groups increased to 190 from 72 in 2014, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center's report on hate groups, "The Year in Hate and Extremism." This rise, noted the Southern Poverty Law Center, is likely due to two KKK groups splintering into smaller groups.
In addition to the KKK's adulation of Trump, hateful incidents and harassment have been on the rise since the election. Between November 9 and November 14, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted 437 hate-related incidents against women, children, and minorities in the US. The most reported incidents were anti-immigrant (136), anti-black (89), and anti-LGBT (43).
North Carolina, a swing state that went to Trump and currently home to eight KKK groups and two white nationalist groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, has a particularly violent history of KKK clashes with protesters. On November 3, 1979, an anti-KKK demonstration in Greensboro, ended when a caravan of Klansman and Nazis opened fire, killing five and wounding ten people. The Greensboro Massacre, as it was later called, was captured by four TV stations, yet none of the gunmen spent a single day in prison.
Counter protesters in North Carolina most notably confronted the KKK again in 2012 when they held a rally in uptown Charlotte with a much different result: The 250 protesters, who rallied in clown makeup while blowing silly-sounding horns, outnumbered the Klansmen and there was no violence reported.
Protesters in Pelham this Saturday armed themselves a mix of attire, readied for any outcome–from a musical instruments to baseball bats. But the confrontation never came. Instead, the KKK played cat and mouse with counter protesters, first moving the parade from the morning in Pelham to the afternoon in Danville about 20 minutes away, and then back towards Pelham, and then in Danville again.
In between all of this ping-ponging, protesters held two counter protest marches in Pelham and Danville. In Pelham, protesters chanted "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U-S-A!" while marchers beat their aluminum bats against the asphalt in time with the chants, punctuated by the bleat of Maxwell's sax. In Danville, they marched down Main Street to honking horns and passersby.
At the end of the last march, the crowd roared when Natalie Janicello of The Times-News tweeted a KKK spokesperson saying the parade "has been cancelled" since the "bottom fell out" of planning the event. Organizers also claimed it was too cold to march.The protester who shared this news shouted, "If the Klan shows their face here, we will shut them down again!" A businesswoman and resident since 1978 who had stepped out of her hat shop to see what was going on, said, "I'm just grateful, and I thank God for you all."
The idea that the counter protesters chased out the KKK, not the other way around, thrilled people, a moment the KKK tried to crush an hour later when Janicello captured video footage of about 30 cars driving through Roxboro (about 40 miles away from Pelham) with Confederate flags and shouts of "white power!" But it was not a victory parade; it was a funeral procession, an inglorious retreat.