| HIGHWAY 122
Walt Bresette Memorial Highway,
KKK-adopted road may soon be named after noted black
Phil Brinkman State government reporter
When the Ku Klux Klan adopted a stretch of highway in northern Wisconsin two years ago, lawmakers countered by trying to rename the road.
Two years later, they still can't agree on whom to pick as the person who best symbolizes opposition to the bigotry advocated by the KKK.
After legislators learned of the KKK's interest in picking up litter along the two-mile stretch of Highway 122 in Iron County near Hurley, state Rep. Gary Sherman, D-Port Wing, proposed a bill naming the road after Walter Bresette.
Bresette, a member of the Red Cliff band of Lake Superior Chippewa and an environmental and civil rights activist, died in 1999.
The bill passed the then-Democratic-led state Senate but died in the Republican-controlled Assembly. Republicans said naming the road after an Indian didn't drive home the point that the KKK has mostly targeted blacks.
Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, then proposed naming the highway after Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist who led hundreds of slaves to freedom in the North through the Underground Railroad.
That bill passed the Assembly but died in the Senate.
Last February, Bies re-introduced the measure. While they felt the name was closer to the target, Bies' Republican colleagues said they wanted someone with Wisconsin roots.
Bies did some research and hit upon the name of Sherman Booth, editor of The Free Democrat who led a protest against the arrest of fugitive slave Joshua Glover in 1854. The crowd ultimately bashed in the jail doors, freeing Glover. Booth was fined and jailed, but the case fueled the abolition movement in Wisconsin.
Although Democrats on the Assembly Transportation Committee objected to replacing Tubman, a black woman, with the name of a white man - a New York native to boot - the committee voted 9-6 along party lines to name the road after Booth.
After meeting with members of the Legislature's black caucus, Bies hit the history books again. On Tuesday, when the bill is expected to come up for a vote in the Assembly, he'll offer another amendment, to name the road after Ezekiel Gillespie.
Gillespie, a leader of the black community in Milwaukee, is credited with bringing suffrage to black men (but not women). He sued for the right to vote in 1865, and the Supreme Court ruled in his favor the next year.
"I wasn't really set on exactly who" to name it after, Bies said. "(I just wanted) somebody with a good tie to slavery to show that people in Wisconsin stood up to that."
Sherman said he regrets lawmakers did not endorse his original choice, adding it's been tough on the Bresette family. But he said he applauded Bies' efforts to find a name both houses, now controlled by Republicans, can endorse.
"I feel Garey's heart's in the right place and I'm certainly not going to do anything to offer an impediment to that," Sherman said.
Bresette Highway bill tabled by WI Assembly Republicans
ASSEMBLY, SENATE COMMITTEES VOTE FOR WALT BRESETTE
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P.O. Box 1045, Eau Claire, WI 54702
Toll-free Hotline: 800-445-8615
More Than 1,000 Blast Klan
By Amy Mayron and Murali Balaji
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Sunday August 26, 2001
....A crowd of anti-Klan protesters, which state troopers estimated at 1,200 but organizers said numbered 2,000, strained the fences that kept them from getting too close to speakers. They shouted, banged on drums and blew horns, drowning out KKK speakers' message of hate. About 46 people, half claiming to be from the Ku Klux Klan of Mercer, Wis., stood on the steps of the Capitol. The rest were members of the National Socialist Movement of Minneapolis. Four people were dressed in KKK robes and a dozen wore Nazi uniforms.
For the most part, the rallies were peaceful. State Patrol troopers arrested three people for jumping over barricades and charged them with disorderly conduct. A fourth person, who showed up about 10:45 a.m. as police were preparing, also was arrested for disorderly conduct after he threatened troopers. Police did not think he had anything to do with the Klan or protesters.
Only a handful of Klan sympathizers showed up: one with a sign that read "KKK -- I support" and another wearing a white T-shirt with a Confederate flag on it. The only place they could go to hear the Klan was with the hundreds of protesters, many of whom crowded them, getting into their faces and screaming at them to go away.
"I wanted to hear what the Klan had to say," said Roxanne Jungclaus, 46, of Maplewood, who said she is a member of the National Organization for the Advancement of White People. Her bag bore a sticker saying, "Never apologize for being white." "Our motto is equal rights for all, special privileges for none," she said.
Security was extraordinarily tight. Klan members met at an undisclosed location away from the Capitol, where troopers walked them through metal detectors to make sure they weren't carrying weapons. They were then bused to the Capitol complex and led into the building through the underground tunnels.
Protesters were kept across the street from the Capitol steps by temporary metal fences and a line of about 100 state troopers. Troopers made them remove flags and signs from sticks, which could have turned into weapons.
The Klan and Socialist Movement members were kept to the top five or six steps of the Capitol. Troopers pushed them up the steps if they descended too far. No one, including media, was allowed to approach them. The turnout of anti-Klan demonstrators surprised even some of the organizers of the event.
"I think it's amazing how many people showed up," said Erika Bjorum of Can the Klan. "I'm so inspired by the diversity of the people who've shown up. The whole community has responded to this."
In between shouting anti-KKK and anti-hate slogans, the Can the Klan speakers urged attendees to be peaceful. Those in attendance represented a cross-section of protest groups, ranging from the Communist Party to gay and lesbian rights groups.
The Klan and Socialist speakers smiled at the sight of so many protesters. Each of about a dozen who took the podium thanked everyone for coming before railing at them for their races and religions. Although it was hard to hear their names and exactly what they were saying, the racist words rose above all the shouting.
"I want to thank all you nonhuman beasts," said one man, who identified himself as a national knight of the Ku Klux Klan. "It was so nice of all you spics, kikes and niggers to welcome us."
The more the speakers talked about their hatred of African-Americans, immigrants, Jews and homosexuals, the angrier and louder protesters got. At one point, the protesters hurled eggs and bread toward the steps and burned a dummy of a robed Klansman.
Police didn't move or flinch at the agitated crowd. Although more than 200 extra troopers and St. Paul police officers waited in full riot gear, they did not show themselves to protesters and never had to be called. The State Patrol spent about $40,000 to staff and prepare for the rally.
Before the Capitol rally, about 150 people met at the Fitzgerald Theatre in downtown St. Paul for an anti-Klan gathering sponsored by the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, the Coalition of Black Churches and other civic groups. A parade of high-profile attendees -- including U.S. Sens. Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, several state legislators, as well as local officials from Minneapolis and St. Paul -- then marched to the Capitol.
After an hour of speeches, the State Patrol escorted the Klan back into the Capitol building to bus them away from St. Paul. The crowd cheered and then quickly dispersed. Two hours later, the state Republican Party, on behalf of the Minnesota Black Republican Coalition, held a unity event inside the Capitol.
"We're reclaiming the Capitol in the name of peace and the name of love," said Lucky Rosenbloom, head of the Black Republican Coalition. "In the end, love, joy, peace and God will prevail."
For updates/information, contact Can the Klan at 651-649-4579 or firstname.lastname@example.org , or log on http://www.cantheklan.orgPhotos of Aug. 25 rallies in St. Paul http://www.circlevision.org/archive/events01/cantheclan082501/canklan3.html
Hurley, WI Chamber Welcomes 2nd White Supremacist Bar
Antibigot Press Release
The Hurley Chamber of Commerce has planned a ribbon cutting ceremony for the grand opening of Iron County's second white supremacist bar, the "Roadhouse Bar", in Pence, Wisconsin. Public Room Tax money collected from the non-white owners of Hurley's Ramada Inn and Silver Street Motel (formerly the "White Way Motel") will be funding the Chamber's activities. The ceremony will be held at 4:30 pm, January 19, 2001. The Roadhouse Bar is owned by brothers Gary and Hilary Koss, who have owned and operated Iron County's first white supremacist bar, "Johnnie's Bar", in Mercer, Wisconsin, for the past decade. The lead bartender at Johnnie's Bar is Michael McQueeny, Grand Dragon of the Wisconsin Ku Klux Klan.
An Iron County resident entered the Roadhouse Bar (which was already open for business) New Years day, and the first words out of the bartender's mouth were "If your a Niger, Jew or Queer, your not welcome here." Is this a portent of things to come? Roadhouse Bar owner Gary Koss was present when the statement was made and did not object. The Roadhouse Bar is located on State Highway 77, as well as being located on snowmobile - ATV trail # 77, Iron County's main east - west tourist run.
You can read the Ironwood Daily Globe announcement of the Grand Opening at http://snow.prohosting.com/rights/roadhouse.jpg
Please see http://snow.prohosting.com/rights/index1.htm for more information on Iron County's white supremacist activities.
The KKK announced a few weeks back that they would hold a rally supporting "racialism" and their version of white power in the Michigan/Wisconsin border community of Ironwood. I see the northwoods as my backyard and felt compelled to confront these purveyors of hate, to at least let them know that I didn't care for their rhetoric. This view is partly fired by what I saw earlier this decade at the boat landings where mobs of angry whites (many drunk and filled with racism) harrassed the Chippewa who were carrying out their treaty rights during their Spring spearing activities. Then I was part of an organized effort of people who went to the landings to try and help moderate or defuse the potential for mob violence.
In Ironwood, I didn't know what to expect. I knew that some KKK opponents were holding a counter rally at a local church and urging people to stay away from the KKK, but that's not my style - I think you learn more by seeing the hatemongers in action and sharing views and mixing feelings with others in the crowd. A couple friends and I went north on Friday, another car from Eau Claire was heading up the next day so I knew at least be a few of us would directly protest the Klan.
I was amazed by two occurances in Ironwood, and heartened by one of them. About 250 people showed up to protest the Klan. Much of this crowd was made up of younger people incensed by the pointed appearance of organized racism in our backyard. This was heartening. Perhaps a dozen Klan supporters were in the crowd.
The other amazing occurance was the police presence. I would estimate about 80 cops were there to control the event. They had rigged a snowfence around the courthouse, where the event was set to occur, and controlled entrance onto the grounds through two locations; they seached pockets, frisked people, and ran a metal detector over our bodies. (Some of the women, including one friend of mine, complained about the detailed search which included bra checks - I guess you could hide a grenade in there or, heaven forbid, a tomato. Me, I realized I wasn't going to get my pepper spray in, and probably didn't need it, but I was allowed to take my 35 mm camera in after I claimed membership in the paparazzi, drawing a smile from the man in blue checking me out)
The cops also made sure we couldn't get anywhere near the white sheets. We were separated from their small riser by a cyclone fence, with another phlanx of police facing us, and yet another fence. The dozen or so "hood"lums who caused all the commotion were brought into Ironwood via an orange school bus and escorted through the locked courthouse, out an exit, and onto their highly protected platform. They began their rally with some loud rockin music from a boom box, but the lyrics were largely unitelligible. Then came the hateful rhetoric. Roughly every third word out of each speaker's mouth was a slur against some member of society - blacks, jews, Indians, gays, women, asians, and latinos were frequent targets, as were many of in the crowd who roared back with our disapproval.
One KKK speaker repeatedly voiced the name and address of a local gay man and urged people to deal with him. Of course, they had the PA and amplifier and I've learned from many rallies that those with the louder voice get their message heard. It's also easy to be a tough guy when your vile oration carries no immediate consequences, as would not have been the case had the crowd been separated from the sheets.
So, for two hours, the KKK spewed forth, converting few if any to their cause. They concluded with another loud song, saluted (in a Nazi-esque way), and were escorted back onto the school bus and out of town.
Many in the community of Ironwood had adopted another way of displaying their displeasure by placing orange ribbons and bows on mailboxes, storefronts, and other public spots to protest the KKK. This too was heartening. I don't know if the KKK will formally return to our northwoods but I know that many will again challenge them if they do. Organized racial hate flourishes and is emboldened when we sit quietly or feign indifference. The KKK's posters for their rally carried the slogan, "you snooze, you lose." The words apply to us, too.
Important: Any groups or individuals planning
memorials for Walt Bresette, or publishing his
writings, should first inform and consult with
his family: Cass, Katie, Claudia, and Robin.
They can be reached at email@example.com