The tiny town of Paris, Texas was the site of one of the most combustible racial clashes in years on Tuesday. State police, clad from head to toe in riot gear, were on hand to keep the peace between two of America’s most notorious groups in the Ku Klux Klan and the New Black Panther Party. Raucous exchanges between the two groups only served to escalate tensions in the sleepy hollow of a town, home to only 26,000 residents, all of whom have seen their lives change greatly within a matter of months.
Intensely soft chants of “white power” were met by thundering returns of “Black power,” as protesters descended upon the Texas Township’s courthouse, with people evenly divided as either supporters or detractors of the actions that took place within its walls. Paris is no ordinary Southern municipality; it is the home of one of the most grizzly, racially-charged murders of the modern era.
All of the media attention and protests within Paris can directly be tied to the murder of Brandon McClelland, a young man who met his end after he was tied to a truck and dragged for several yards. Two of McClelland’s Caucasian friends were brought before the court under suspicions that deemed them the culprits of the heinous crime; both were let go after a special prosecutor deemed that there was not enough evidence to prosecute either suspect and after a truck driver expressed that he might have run over the 24-year old by accident. Both have adamantly maintained their innocence.
The Houston chapter of the Nation of Islam formally organized and partnered with the New Black Panther party to lead the protest, which saw over 200 Black people attend, opposed my a mere handful of white nationalists and Klan members. Rock Banks, the grand titan of East Texas’ Ku Klux Klan revealed that it was not until recently that he decided to not lead the Klan in a counter-protest. “If we showed up in force, with all of our robes on, they’d be back here in a month,” said the racist leader to local media.
Banks’ wife, Donna, felt that the Black protesters are wasting their time and are only “trying to stir up racial unrest.” She also felt that they would use their energies better “trying to close crack houses.”
Two white supremacists were arrested at the protest, which like its previous incarnations, ended peacefully.