[From Sunday's Klan rally in Russellville, Alabama.]
Every time you hear folks on the anti-immigration right insist that it's just illegal immigration they're on about, and that there's nothing racist about their agenda, remember that they all say that, like they did in Columbus, Ohio, recently:
- The organizer of a Statehouse rally to oppose illegal immigration has ties to what hate-group monitors say is a white-supremacist organization.
The organizers call themselves "Americans for America" and say Friday’s rally is "pro-American" and promises to be peaceful.
But the event is being promoted on what an Anti-Defamation League official said is the oldest and largest Web site for white supremacists. And its organizer belongs to a group run by David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader who served one term in the Louisiana legislature.
"Just the fact that they’ve advertised on Stormfront.org, a neo-Nazi Web site, shows that they want white supremacists to show up," said Mark Pitcavage, a Columbus man who monitors hate groups for the Anti-Defamation League.
The rally organizer, Ed Bicker, said that's not true.
He acknowledged that he is involved with Duke's group, European American United and Rights Organization, and that some members of that group would probably attend the rally.
Bicker, a Cleveland resident, describes the organization as a "white civilrights" organization -- not a racist or white supremacist group -- and said Friday's rally isn't about race at all.
"We're not really concerned with where our members come from," he said. "We don't have anything against anyone."
Bicker said his group, which has a "couple dozen" members, has the same concerns as other people who oppose illegal immigration and amnesty programs. The borders should be secured and illegal residents who he said cost taxpayers millions of dollars should be sent home, he said.
"We're concerned with the excess burden illegal immigrants have on America," he said.
For the facts on that "burden," see more here. Not that facts are anything these folks respect.
Once again, we're seeing evidence that the immigration debate is becoming a major launching ground for far-right activism and recruitment. That's why, in locales around the country, they're finding that the debate is becoming truly hateful:
- The Southern Poverty Law Center is reporting a rise in the past year in the number of groups it categorizes as hate groups. A Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard said a recent rally was the first he could remember that drew more supporters than protesters. And one candidate for Alabama attorney general is openly calling for martial law and the shooting of illegal immigrants who resist imprisonment and deportation.
Many of those who attend anti-immigration rallies say they aren't hateful or racist and don't have a problem with immigrants coming to the United States as long as they do it legally.
"I would guess that the more mainstream anti-immigration groups are trying to distance themselves from groups like the Klan because ... (such a group) de-legitimizes their message," said Allen Kohlhepp, a staff member with the Anti-Defamation League.
Especially disturbing was this story's description of a recent Klan rally in Alabama:
- The KKK recently held an anti-immigration rally in Russellville during which it had 20 or so people apply for membership, said Ray Larsen, imperial wizard for the National Knights of the KKK from South Bend Ind. The rally drew a crowd of more than 300 that included a mix of supporters, on-lookers, and a few dozen counter protesters.
It was the first time Larsen could remember supporters outnumbering the people who came out to protest their presence. The Klan initiated several new members at a cross lighting ceremony later that night in Franklin County.
As the Montgomery Advertiser reported, the focus of the rally was immigration:
- Marchers protesting proposals to give illegal immigrants amnesty and supporting calls to deport them yelled anti-immigration slogans such as "Send them back!" and "Let's get rid of the Mexicans!"
Ray Larsen, imperial wizard of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from South Bend, Ind., told the crowd on a megaphone that illegal immigrants are in America to take all the jobs and they want everyone out of America. "And I'm talking about blacks and whites," Larsen said. "They want you out of here because they want this as their land."
Afterward, Klansmen went to a field near Vina in western Franklin County and burned a kerosene-soaked 22-foot-high cross in a field. More than 30 people were in the field, with a few wearing hoods over their faces and others with their faces visible.
And it's worth noting that Don Black -- who operates Stormfront, the site where the Ohio nativists are advertising their rally -- is quoted in the Birmingham News story agreeing that the environment is much more receptive to the message he's been broadcasting for decades:
- Don Black, a former KKK grand wizard who now runs the white nationalist Web site forum Stormfront, said the immigration issue has increased visits to his Web site to about 25,000 visitors a day, up by about 5,000 a day in the past couple of months.
"A lot of people are going to be attracted to our movement because of it and get a greater understanding of what we're all about because of that one issue," said Black, who runs the site from his West Palm Beach, Fla., home.
Unfortunately, the denials of racist intent are taken credulously by the majority of media folk, including the Lou Dobbses of the world -- who are equally adamant that there's nothing racist in their advocacy, either.
To some extent, this is probably because so much of the underlying fear that's driving the immigration debate revolves around the gradual crumbling of white privilege -- something that even supposedly enlightened and educated people, ensconced in their gated communities and neat suburbs, will quietly defend, while doing their best to put a nonracist face on it. The denials are reflexive -- but all too transparent.
And in case anyone thought they were stupid, the folks in pointy hoods have seen through it too.
UPDATE: Clif at American Street wonders why the reporter calls it a "cross lighting ceremony."