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Activists to rally against Klan tonight at Capitol; militia group vows counter-protest

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Amid reports of ongoing public recruitment efforts on the part of a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated group — this reporter received a pro-Klan flyer last month in midtown Tallahassee — the city’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society will march from the campus of Florida State University to the state Capitol this evening as a public symbol of opposition to white supremacy in the capital city.

“We’re out here because the KKK has been flyering in our neighborhoods, just minutes away from us, and the organization has really been growing along with the ideology of racism and white supremacy,” said SDS spokesman Shiivani Ehsan.

Ehsan also pointed to recent revelations that three South Florida corrections officers with ties to the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan had planned to murder an African-American inmate upon his release as part of the impetus for the march.

Ehsan said there is no evidence that law enforcement officers in Tallahassee are involved with the Klan, but that recent trends within the city’s police department worry her.

“The TPD [Tallahassee Police Department] has had a history of police brutality and a history of overall unsafe conditions for poor minorities here in town,” Ehsan said. “The fact that a white nationalist group is going to continue to flyer and have a presence here just makes it more unsafe for people of color in this city.”

Ehsan said she expects between 50 and 100 people to march in solidarity with the group. She indicated the group’s intentions are purely peaceful and does not expect “unruliness,” though a small neo-Confederate group calling itself the Republic of Florida Militia has vowed to counter-protest.

“Communist SDS in Tallahassee will be counter-protested. The Klan has the right to stand up for White people. Regardless of how we feel about the KKK — They are, in their own way, standing up for the European people,” read a post on the group’s Facebook page. We will not stand for violence against them. In the name of the Republic — we declare war against the SDS and will not [sic?] systemetically destroy them in their present form. No longer can we let communist [sic] walk the streets.”

Ehsan downplays the prospect of violence, describing the militia group as numbering no more than “four or five guys.” But in posts since taken down, the ROF made thinly veiled threats against the protesters should the militiamen deem the SDS event overly hostile.

Event organizers and participants will congregate at the Westcott Building at FSU at 7 p.m. this evening and march on the nearby Capitol from there. SDS has been using the hashtag #KlanOutOfTally, where supporters like the Florida-based Dream Defenders have promoted the event.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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