Counter-protesters say KKK is losing steam after botched picnic

MADISON, Ind. (WDRB) -- The Ku Klux Klan's annual "Ku Klux Kookout" was over before it ever really began.

Counter-protesters, including some so-called anti-fascists, hijacked the KKK's plan to protest at a park on the Ohio River in Madison, Indiana, on Saturday.

Those counter-protesters, some wearing red bandannas to partially cover their faces, arrived at the park's pavilion early in the morning to block the Klan from using the area for its annual picnic.

Just after 1:30 p.m., a small motorcade of KKK members finally arrived. After revving their engines past the counter-protesters, about 10 Klan members parked at an adjacent pavilion with two carry-out pizzas in tow.

Before the Klan could take over the pavilion, counter-protesters darted across the park to stand in the way of the KKK members — many of them masked and wearing black leather vests. After a profane shouting match, which was watched closely by both Indiana State Police and the Madison Police Department, the Klan members, vastly outnumbered, retreated to their cars and left.

"The 'Honorable Sacred Knights' of the KKK showed up here at the park and were chased out within minutes, because hate has no place here in Madison, Indiana," said Mike Gamms, a self-described anti-fascist from New York who donned a Spiderman suit during the counter-protest. "If they do this event again, I bet Spiderman and his amazing friends will be here again."

Counter-protests believe the botched cookout illustrates the waning influence of the KKK and that the Madison community won't tolerate hate.

"Well, we're hoping this might have been a good reminder that, guess what, they're losing steam," said Mary Childress, a Madison native.

Hours later, the counter-protesters also left the pavilion. Later in the day, a group of women from several Madison churches arrived at the park with brooms and brushes to cleanse the pavilion of the brief hate it had experienced.

The KKK is America's oldest and most notorious hate group and has a long history of violence, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group held another cookout in Madison in 2018, and the event was also met by ardent counter-protests.

"I want it to be clear that Madison does not condone groups that promote racism, bigotry or hate," Madison Mayor Damon Welch said earlier this week.