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The KKK held a rally on a farm in Kent County in 1970

July 1, 2021

We just posted an article about the legacy of the Klan in Grand Rapids in 1925. Today, we want to talk about a Klan rally held in Kent County in 1970.

The only archival record we could find about the 1970 Klan rally in Kent County is because a reporter from the Grand Rapids Press attended the rally and wrote a piece in their Wonderland Magazine section of the paper. 

The Klan rally took place at a farm in Kent County, a farm that was somewhere along US 131, just south of Grand Rapids. We know this, because the GR Press reporter mentions US 131 several times in the article. In fact, the reporter states that the Klan members parked in the driveway of Bill Post’s farm and walked through his barnyard to get to the location where the rally was being held.

The headline of the article was entitled, The Klan in Kent County, which also featured a photo of a burning cross and a quote from a Christian Pastor who spoke at the Klan rally, saying, “We ask you Lord, to stand behind us in our effort to keep America white.”

Just after the pastor spoke these words, several Klan members dressed in white robes light their torches and then set on fire a large cross they had erected on the farm property. Just as the Klan members were setting the cross on fire, another Klan member in a green robe shouts, “This is a light for all white America.”

The reporter then notes that the cross burned for about an hour before in collapsed on a Saturday night in July of 1970. The reporter goes on to say about the fiery cross, “It falls atop a hill seven miles south of Grand Rapids, and less than 100 yards west of US 131.”

The article also reports that the Grand Dragon of the Michigan unit of the United Klans of America Inc, spoke to the crowd and his names was Robert Miles from Howell, Michigan. The Press reporter notes that he smiles a lot and tells jokes. 

On page 4 of the article it notes that there are several armed men patrolling the perimeter of the Klan rally, making sure no “intruders” showed up. According to the Press reporter, there were two main themes in the speech made by the Grand Dragon. First, that white people are a minority, “defending themselves against hostile blacks, Communists, atheists and federal bureaucrats.” The second theme was that history backs up what the Klan teaches.

The Press reporter then states that as the Grand Dragon was finishing with a prayer, he then concluded with these words:

“This cross is but a symbol of our belief that white America will last, that the white race will not be subjugated by the experimenters, that we shall retreat no longer.”

What I find instructive about this article is that the reporter does a good job of reporting on what was said by the Klan spokesperson, but there in no indication that he tried to interview the Grand Dragon. In addition, there is also no reflection on the comments made by the Grand Dragon, no analysis and no contextual information about the realties that Black people were facing in Grand Rapids in 1970, nor does the reporter challenge the claim that white people are the minority, as claimed by the Klan speaker. The truth is that Grand Rapids was still very much made up of mostly white people and that white people controlled the political and economic power in the city.

At the conclusion of the article it states that there were Kent County Sheriff’s deputies and Michigan State police waiting by the cars of the Klan members who were at the rally. The Press reporter writes that the police were writing down the names of the people in attendance, had confiscated “a few rifles and arrested on man for trying to run over a policemen with his car.”

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