The following is the text of a June 23, 1996 letter sent to the Ann Arbor News from Ann Arbor Organizing Against the Klan (A2 OAK) -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
To the Editor:
Media coverage of the June 22 Ann Arbor counter-demonstration against a Ku Klux Klan rally was both distorted and omitted almost all mention of the widespread police brutality that took place against counter-demonstrators. Ann Arbor Organizing Against the Klan (A2 OAK), a community coalition of sixteen local groups and many individuals, wishes to set the record straight.
There were numerous incidents of unprovoked police violence against not only the 600 or more assembled counter-demonstrators, but also bystanders and passersby. Tear gas was randomly shot into the crowd with no order to disperse ever given. Protesters who did nothing illegal were randomly maced. Several of the eight people arrested were beaten and maced while they were already handcuffed and in police custody and were offering absolutely no resistance at that time. One passerby who did not even participate in the counter-demonstration was maced apparently for questioning a police officer. Police maced a man holding a baby. A puppy belonging to a counter-demonstrator was repeatedly and deliberately kicked and maced. A woman organizer for A2 OAK was maced after the rally was over as she was walking to her car; the police stopped their car, rolled down the window and sprayed mace in her face. These are but a few of the instances of police brutality that took place that day. In reality, it was this widespread use of police violence that provoked counter-demonstrators to anger, not the other way around.
In a highly revealing view of racism in the criminal justice system, of the six white and two Black people arrested, all the white arrestees were released on personal recognizance; the Black arrestees were forced to post bond!
All told, 200 cops from several different police departments were deployed to protect the KKK, a group whose history of murder and racist terror are well-known. This deployment consisted of tens of thousands of tax dollars spent on erecting fences around City Hall, blocking and re-routing traffic, paying for overtime for the police, providing transportation for the KKK to and from the rally site, and allowing the KKK access to the second floor terrace of City Hall as a staging area for their rally. Apparently one has to advocate genocide in order to be afforded these amenities. This goes way beyond any issue of "free speech." The police did everything possible to ensure that the Klan had a successful rally. However, despite the unprecedented display of police protection for these advocates of mass murder, including police statements prior to the event calling on local citizens to avoid the anti-racist demonstration, 600 plus people were able to successfully drown out the message of hatred of the Klan and outnumber these fascists by over 30 to 1.
Furthermore, the Ann Arbor News inaccurately reported that "protest groups" had been threatening violence "all week" before the rally. This is patently false. As a broad-based community and campus ad hoc coalition of diverse groups and individuals - Black, white, Latino, Asian, gay, straight, religious, non-religious, young and old - A2 OAK encompassed a variety of political and tactical opinions. Our plan was for a massive anti-fascist demonstration to be held at the same place prior to the appearance of the Klan so that these proponents of lynching and the torching of Black churches would think twice about organizing for racial terrorism in our city. That would have been the least violent of all the alternatives. Instead, the police thwarted this by militarily blockading City Hall with fences and 200 cops menacing anti-racist protesters, issuing provocative statements designed to scare potential counter-demonstrators, and brutalizing protesters who courageously resisted these police threats and stood up against a group organizing for political power based on a program of genocide.
In view of this display of police brutality in Ann Arbor on June 22, A2 OAK demands the following:
1. Drop all charges against the eight people arrested.
2. The immediate unpaid suspension of those police officers involved in brutalizing counter-demonstrators and passersby.
3. An independent investigation of overall police conduct and tactics on June 22.
In addition, A2 OAK urges all member of the community to picket and pack the preliminary examination hearing of the Ann Arbor 8 on July 3 at 12:30pm outside of 14-A District Court at Washtenaw and Hogback in Ann Arbor.
Paul Lefrak Barbara Pliskow, for Ann Arbor Organizing Against the Klan (A2 OAK)