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Peacekeepers busy as Klan meets

NCR Staff

When the motorcade carrying a dozen Ku Klux Klan members arrived in Saginaw, Mich., July 6 to speak from the county courthouse steps, the city was ready: 500 police in riot gear, a courthouse surrounded with seven-foot tall barricades and cordoned off streets.

Anti-Klan demonstrators, bent on violence, showed up from other Michigan cities, and were confronted with a team of seven "peacekeepers" trained by Rick Nix, director of the Saginaw Catholic diocese's Office of Black Concerns. Also to counteract the Klan, Saginaw's Bridge Center for Racial Harmony planned an alternative event three-quarters of a mile away.

Nix reported that as anti-Klan forces attempted to urge the crowd to rush the police and Klan, trained "peacekeepers" were able to insert themselves between the factions and calm the situation. The result was only one minor altercation, Nix said.

When the Klan's sound system failed, the hate group pulled out vowing to return to Saginaw in September. Vigorous lobbying and publicity, not least from the commercial community around the Saginaw courthouse, caused the Klan to cancel its Sept. 14 appearance in favor of a spring 1997 demonstration.

Nix told NCR that by then, he and peaceful intervention specialist Tom Primmer hope to have 50 peacekeepers trained to counter potential violence should the Klan return.

National Catholic Reporter, October 25, 1996