CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police say no one was arrested during a loud – and very colorful – KKK rally and counter-protest in uptown Charlotte Saturday afternoon.
Members of the National Socialist Movement joined the Ku Klux Klan for an anti-immigration rally at Old City Hall on West Trade Street, but the counter-protesters outnumbered them at least five to one.
Instead of shouting, the protesters used squeaky toys, whistles, and noisemakers to drown out the amplified speeches. Many dressed as clowns.
When the speakers talked about “White Power,” the protesters sprinkled white flour. Another held a sign reading “Wife Power.”
They said they wanted to make a point that racism is ridiculous.
“The message from us is, you look silly,” said Lacey Williams, the youth coordinator for Charlotte’s Latin American Coalition. “We're dressed like clowns and you're the ones that look funny.”
Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group based in Detroit, said his organization wants to be an alternative third party to the country’s two-party system. Its platform is based on white supremacy.
Protestor Tom Strini donned his red nose and rainbow wig to take an opposing point of view.
“Instead of meeting hate with hate, they were going to meet hate with love,” said Strini of the protestors.
“I think it’s really important to have a sense of humor,” added Williams. “What they want is for us to fight them. They want us to hit them with hate. We can't become them.”
City council member John Autry, who represents east Charlotte’s District 5, also wore a red nose to show his support of the counter-protesters.
“We're just a great big happy melting pot,” said Autry. “I just wanted to come out here and make sure people understood that I did not support the views of the people behind up here with the microphones.”
More than 75 police officers ringed the grassy front lawn during the speeches. Metal barricades separated the speakers from the protesters. Police rarely needed to move from their positions.
After two hours, the Klan and neo-Nazis put down their microphone and left with a police escort. Police followed them back to a parking garage on Fourth Street near the county courthouse, while protesters filled the street behind them.
Strini said it shows the white supremacists are actually the minority, because so many people showed up to protest.
“It just shows that more people in this country are in favor of equal and human rights than there are people who want to kick all dark-skinned people out of the country,” he said.