By Justin Leighty
ELKHART -- The Ku Klux Klan's rally at the County Courts Building downtown ended with shouts but no violence Saturday afternoon. It also ended with a promise that the Klan will return.
The turnout "was pretty much what we expected," said Jean Null, the Goshen woman who organized the rally locally. "We will be back. It may be spring before we come back again," she said.
The peace came at the cost of about 320 police officers and a lot of advance planning, keeping the Klan separate from two dozen supporters and twice that many protesters, all in separate blocked-off areas, as well as a group holding an alternate rally a block away on the Civic Plaza.
As Klan members preached their message of separating the races and deporting non-whites, attendees at the prayer rally on the plaza left and marched around the fencing and barricades that separated the Klan rally from the rest of downtown.
"I know there's a lot of people who'd like us to shut up and go away," said a man who only identified himself as "Grizzly," grand kludd of the Church of the American Knights of the KKK.
Grizzly said Elkhart County "is a cesspool of crime because of the gangs, because of the interracial breeding." He advocated sending non-white people out of the country, drawing cheers from his supporters.
A half-block away, the protesters -- most of them white -- mocked the Klan. "Are you afraid to show your face? You make me not want to be white," one woman yelled.
The protest group then began to mock the Klan's yells of "White Power" by yelling back "White Trash."
Fred Todd, one of the protesters, had personal reasons for protesting the Klan. "I came here today in hopes I wouldn't get to their level of anger," he said of the Klan. He then motioned to his son, Brandon. "We're part of the mud race," he said, explaining that Brandon is a mix of Cherokee, Jewish, black and Italian.
"I keep hearing about Jesus," he said, referring to the Klan gathering in Jesus' name, "but I'm not feeling it." He then turned to the pro-Klan demonstrators and yelled, "Why don't you spit in Jesus' eye, you hypocrites?"
Howard Puleatmon of Elkhart said he was there to support the Klan because of interracial marriages. "It irritates the hell out of me. I don't want the races mixed. Don't interbreed," he said.
Gary Tinsley, another Klan supporter, said that non-whites "overpopulate like rabbits and live off welfare. Get a job ... !"
A block away on the Plaza, the separate group -- around 40 people strong -- also gathered in Jesus' name, this one praying and singing. "Some wanted to march, but that wasn't our focus," said the Rev. Christopher Pittman, pastor of People's Protestant in Cassopolis. "I have compassion on the KKK. They're just lost," he said.
As roughly 30 of the Plaza group marched, the words of Evangelist Miriom Goins could be heard echoing downtown, speaking of love -- a message contrasting sharply with the Klan's message of "the power of one man," citing examples such as Ghengis Khan and Adolph Hitler.
Despite that, Grizzly claimed the Klan is not a hate group.
Grizzly spoke of honoring veterans for protecting our freedoms, despite the fact that several local veterans have expressed anger at the Klan's choice of Saturday to rally (an earlier date was requested but denied because it was too close to election day).
City officials also were not happy with the choice. "We're really disappointed the Klan did this on Veterans Day," said Josh Mann, director of community affairs.
"We know they'll be back," he said. "We'd like to see if we can lessen the cost to the taxpayers."
When the rally wrapped up, Elkhart Police spokesman Capt. Bill Faus said, "I'm very pleased. Everybody went home safe."