Numerous Ku Klux Klan leaflets were found on people’s lawns in a neighborhood in Lexington over the weekend of March 13th. On Monday, March 21, Lexington residents turned out for an anti-KKK peace rally, and WMRA’s Jessie Knadler was there.
Jackson Avenue is a mostly white residential street. Residents were unnerved. The police were quickly notified. The leaflets invited recipients to embrace“white pride.” Some care went into their delivery. They were sealed in plastic bags and weighted down with rice. White rice, naturally.
[sounds of peace rally]
A peace rally was quickly assembled in response. It took place last night at Hopkins Green to denounce such hatred and racism. The Green was packed.
One of the speakers was Lexington Mayor Mimi Elrod. Although she didn’t mention him by name, she wasted no time addressing what was on a lot of people’s minds—whether racists feel emboldened by the political rise of Donald Trump, who hasn’t exactly disavowed the affections of white nationalists.
MIMI ELROD: We see candidates who spew racist venom…Maybe it really isn’t too surprising that our city would be leafleted by a group such as this and the frightening thing is that many people accept this view.
The incident also provided an opportunity to talk about the history of Lexington itself, a town very closely associated with the Confederate flag.
T.J. TALLIE: It’s a weird position to be an African American teaching African American history at a university named after a Confederate general—it’s real weird.
T.J. Tallie is a professor of history at Washington & Lee—as in Robert E. Lee.
TALLIE: What are the constant reminders that someone like me couldn’t attend this school 40 years ago? That someone 150 years ago – or maybe a bit before that -- would have been employed here and not in a paid position? It’s a difficult history to be aware of and it’s one we have to constantly look at and to remember that for people of color this town does not always feel, look or seem as bucolic as it does for some others.
W&L theater student Anthonia Adams, who’s also black, said that the preponderance of Confederate flags in and around Rockbridge County makes her feel afraid.
ANTHONIA ADAMS: I was afraid to be outside after dark, to walk in the wrong neighborhood or get lost in my car on the wrong road because I didn’t know who was a hateful racist and who was just a regular person.
Attendee Ashley Perry recently moved to Lexington from Richmond.
ASHLEY PERRY: Obviously, being a black American, this was very encouraging for me. Honestly, I didn’t expect a lot of people to come and so just to have this crowd makes me feel not alone, like somehow we’re all in this together. I don’t know. It’s encouraging to me.