The Ku Klux Klan Rally in Cicero
A Test of Our First Amendment Rights
by Mark Liberator (e-mail:

The Ku Klux Klan has received a lot of attention concerning their desire to rally in Cicero on March 14th [1998]. Much of this attention was deserved although I question the intent of those who have positioned themselves around the issue. I also question the ramifications of their efforts.

In order to get a handle on this situation, the exact nature of the issue still needs to be addressed. The issue is whether or not a controversial group of people have the right to rally in Cicero and anywhere else they choose in The United States. Also, should the threat of violence be a determining factor concerning the right to freedom of speech?

The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.
John Stuart Mill

On one hand, people have argued against the KKK's request to rally. It has turned into a campaign issue (see the February/March issue of The Cicero Town News). The town meeting just before the event brought out business, education, and religious leaders of the community. They claimed that the youths in Cicero do not possess the necessary emotional characteristics needed to make a mature decision in this case.

On the other hand, no one in Cicero has argued for the Ku Klux Klan's constitutional right to rally. I believe that the reason for this lopsided public debate was mainly due to the nature of the KKK. Their reputation for being messengers of hate is well known and precedes them. They are also well known for their entrenched views concerning racism and a history for carrying out race related crimes. That is why it is very convenient for many people to deny the KKK of their right to speak. Nevertheless, even fools have a right to be wrong and speak their minds publicly. The ability to speak one's mind is a major source of our strength. A weakness would exist if groups like the KKK were not allowed to speak.

Even though Cicero originally defeated the Ku Klux Klan's request to rally, our First Amendment rights were still protected on March 14th. Those rights were protected because the KKK was able to rally. The Town, which happens to be mostly Hispanic, needed to know that their representatives were opposed to the views that the KKK continually attempts to spread. The Town's unanimous decision (7-0) should have done just that. However, The Town of Cicero missed a beat by not educating its residents to the rights all of us have as citizens of this great land. A teachable moment was lost.

A child who is protected from all controversial ideas is as vulnerable as a child who is protected from every germ. The infection, when it comes--and it will come--may overwhelm the system, be it the immune system or the belief system.
Jane Smiley

It would have been uncomfortable for Town officials and school teachers to explain why the Ku Klux Klan has a fundamental right to rally wherever they choose in this country. Yet it is that exact right which makes our country such a great place. It is that exact reason why so many people from so many countries decide to migrate to The United States. It is about freedom. We must preserve our freedom by allowing groups like the KKK to speak publicly, no matter how strongly we disagree with them. Cicero officials did not address this fact, however uncomfortable it would have been.

Another teachable moment was lost when the KKK was made an offer not to rally. In place of the rally, a private donation to pick up the costs for the distribution of KKK fliers to Cicero residents was made. Soon after that decision was made, protestors forced her to rescind the offer. Without those thoughtful citizens Cicero would have been spreading the message KKK members intended to disseminate during the rally. The youths in Cicero would have been confused by this mixed message even though the rally was side-stepped. I am still left wondering if all of this effort was really necessary in the first place. Exactly what was accomplished?

If the rally had come to Cicero, a few overzealous observers may have become disorderly. Personally, I felt confident that Cicero residents would have been capable of handling their emotions while KKK members were going to preach their ignorance; and that was clearly their intent. So a few people may have been prevented from going to jail. Also, the cost for all the police protection would have been expensive. So Cicero taxpayers were spared a few dollars.

As a resident of Cicero, I am not sure which was worse: having 1) a teachable moment lost, 2) my town consider taking an active role with the dissemination of KKK ideology, or 3) leaders of the community assume that fellow Ciceronians are not capable of handling controversial ideas. As a citizen of The United States, I am also not in agreement with the collective efforts that have been verbalized concerning this issue, namely to deny a group from their First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it.
Thomas Jefferson
One of the Founding Fathers of The United States Constitution

Maybe we can avoid losing the teachable moment if we carefully reflect on the issues surrounding these events.


  1. The Liberator: Interview with The Ku Klux Klan: Jeff Berry
  2. Yahoo Directory: Society and Culture > Cultures and Groups > White Pride and Racialism

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