Monday, January 17, 2011

365 Photos Day 17


I call this photo "Martin Luther King Jr Day, 1993 in front of the the state capital in Denver, Colorado, or How I Inadvertently Attended a KKK Rally".

Yes indeed. If I'd had "attend a KKK rally on my life list" (which I did/do not), I surely could've crossed it off as done.

What? So how did I come to be there? Well...

In the summer/fall/early winter of 1992 I worked an insane amount of overtime for my primary job, plus had a seasonal retail job. At the end of the year, instead of paying off some of my bills, I decided to take a trip somewhere...anywhere...because I'd never been out of the Pacific Northwest (northern California didn't count. Not really).

We had a 3-day weekend over Martin Luther King Jr weekend in January 1993, and a guy who I worked with invited me down (nothing romantic) to spend the weekend and see the sights. We went to the symphony, to museums, on a gambling trip, and explored the city. It was really fun. Cold, but fun.

On my last day there, we were down by the state capital looking at some memorial sculptures (or something), and I heard some bagpipe music, and saw the crowd. Not knowing any better, I said something like, "Hey! That's cool music. Let's go see what's going on!" The closer we got, the louder the shouting was. Finally we were close enough to see what was going on. I was shocked. Well, not shocked, was more like a "Holy Sh*t!" moment in my life.

Standing on the steps of the capital was a whole group of white men dressed in full KKK regalia--we're talking complete with the hoods. Some were in white, some were in red, some in green. I remember thinking, "Holy Sh*t! They're wearing sheets. They *do* exist. Damn." Then I became more aware of where we were standing--right in the middle of a group of EXTREMELY pissed off African-Americans who were shouting back at the speaker, who was spewing lots of hate and whatever else they believe.

At this point, the guy I was visiting was making noises about "Oh my goodness, we need to leave now before it gets ugly", but I managed to convince him to stay for a little longer.

As I was looking around, I noticed the SWAT team members who were interspersed throughout the crowd. They weren't keeping anyone in or out, just watching. It dawned on me that this was a visual and auditory example of the country's First Amendment in action. Not only that, at least for this moment, the KKK speaker could say what he wanted, but that the protestors could say what THEY wanted without fear of reprisal.

I thought about getting pictures of the KKK people, but to me, they weren't the interesting thing going on. For me, it was the crowd. This was the shot I did take (I was almost out of film at this point).

It's taken me 18 years to notice the tall African-American guy at the far right of the picture who's flipping the KKK off. Good for him.

And, no, I still don't know what bagpipe music has to do with the KKK, but I'm OK with that.

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