A History of Ku Klux Klan Marches in D.C.’s Lafayette Park

KKK Lafayette Park

Getty Some 35,000 Ku Klux Klan members marched in Washington D.C. to Lafayette Park.

In 1925, 35,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan boldly marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to Lafayette Park, across from the White House.

Fifty-seven years later, the Klan was back but while perhaps still emboldened, they came sans robes and hoods; they had them stashed in shopping bags. And, there were just a few dozen of the Klansmen but there were hundreds, if not thousands, of counter-protesters.

The New York Times reported in 1982:

The police used tear gas today to contain an unruly crowd that was protesting the first Ku Klux Klan rally here in 57 years.

The police acted when anti-Klan demonstrators began throwing stones and bottles and attempted to break through police lines after a small group of Klansmen held a brief rally in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House.

Eleven police officers were injured, none seriously, in the melee, and 38 demonstrators were arrested. Before order was restored, two cars had been overturned, at least two stores had been looted and windows in several buildings, including the historic home of James Madison, had been smashed.

Klan leaders had predicted that as many as 200 of their members would march from the Capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue to the rally. Instead, about three dozen Klansmen showed up and, on the advice of the police, changed their plans in order to stay clear of numerous anti-Klan groups demonstrating by the hundreds at points along the route.

The Klansmen canceled the march down the avenue and drove in a police motorcade to Lafayette Park. They left their white robes in shopping bags during the 15-minute gathering, which was more of a question-and-answer session with reporters than a full-fledged rally. When it ended, the police swiftly escorted the Klansmen out of town.

The Klan routinely receives police protection when it rallies or marches.


An African-American police officer protecting the KKK during a rally.

And while the 1982 post Civil Rights-era rally was less KKK than it was anti-KKK, the 1925 march, and Klan events in the nation’s capital for years and indeed decades, previously, were not only commonplace, there was no massive opposition, or at least not publicly reported large-scale protests against the Klan.


Getty20th March 1922: Members of the white supremacist movement, the Ku Klux Klan standing by an aeroplane, out of which they dropped publicity leaflets over Washington DC. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

The ‘Unite the Right 2’ rally is being held on the anniversary of the first UTR rally in Charlottesville that claimed the life of Heather Heyer, 32, and two Virginia state troopers who were killed when their helicopter crashed. Armed white supremacists clashed with counter-protesters in a violent and bloody rally-turned-riot. That city refused to grant a permit for the UTR2. It is being held in Washington D.C. at Layfayette Park, the scene of a number of KKK marches in the past century-plus. The former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, felon and Holocaust-denier David Duke is slated to speak, according to Kessler’s permit application for the rally.

KKK rally

A Ku Klux Klan member stands with heavy police protection during a rally in 1999.

And it appears that, based on the rules laid out by the National Park Service which approved the permit, unlike Chalottesville, there will be no Nazi flags, no guns, no shields – or at least that’s what organizer white nationalist Jason Kessler agreed to and cautioned marchers to adhere to. And no torches, which were used by hundreds of white supremacists on the night before the Aug. 12 rally in Virginia, an homage, planned or not, to the torches used by the KKK and its burning crosses.

24th May 1965: A burning cross dominates a meeting of the American white supremacist movement, the Ku Klux Klan in Beaufort, South Carolina. (Photo by Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images)

Kessler said, “…forget about the torch thing.”

Ku Klux Klan weddingduring a Klan convention in Washington DC 1930t Washington, Reverend Chas Van Der Linden who married Blanch May Stoll to Edwin F Shepler, as a climax to a Washington Convention. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

Kessler provided the NPS with a rally number, around 200 white power activists, and a list of speakers. At least two of those speakers has posted online that they will not me in attendance as the “parade” is a watered down, more mainstream if not foolish, parade. Many in the alt-right say it’s better to stay off the streets and continue to organize under the radar as it “wins the culture war,” per the avowed white supremacist Andrew Anglin.