Klu Klux Klan members immediately met a vocal group of protesters after arriving at Jaycee Park for their event Saturday. The protesters and Klan members exchanged fiery words for about 20 minutes until the Klansmen got back in their vehicles and left the park. (Courier staff photo by Mark Campbell)
Klu Klux Klan members immediately met a vocal group of protesters after arriving at Jaycee Park for their event Saturday. The protesters and Klan members exchanged fiery words for about 20 minutes until the Klansmen got back in their vehicles and left the park. (Courier staff photo by Mark Campbell)
The week began with indications through emails that a group calling itself “The Honorable Sacred Knights of the Klu Klux Klan” intended to reserve Jaycee Park on Madison’s riverfront and stage an event during the big car show weekend. Last year’s presence of about a dozen Klan members drew 250 to 300 Klan protesters.

Last week, there were emails exchanged between the Klan group and area news media and between the group and the City of Madison.

Since last year, the city park’s board had revised the rules for reserving a park, and the Klan indicated it did not want to adhere to the new requirements.

The Klan then indicated it did not intend to repeat its “kookout” of the year before. Instead its communications indicated, it only wanted to reserve spaces for a birthday party from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

However, under the new rules, if the park is to be reserved, the group reserving the space must comply with the park board’s revised rules, which the Klan indicated it did not want to do.

If the park was not reserved, anyone could show up and claim park spaces for a gathering and no one could take away those spaces, the rules said.

Friday turned into Saturday with no certainty of whether the Klan still intended to appear.

By 8 a.m. Saturday, the shelterhouse at Jaycee Park was occupied, but it was unclear who the occupants were except that they were not wearing nor displaying Klan insignias.

Later in the morning, a sign went up indicating the event to take place was a “Pinko Commie Birthday Party.”

By early morning Saturday, it also was clear that while law enforcement was not obvious on the riverfront around Jaycee Park as last year, there was a significant law enforcement presence in Madison.

About two dozen Madison Police Department and Indiana State Police cars were parked in the lot and on the street around the police department office at West and Fifth streets. Undercover vehicles were out on the streets.

About 1:45 p.m. three vehicles with Klan members inside drove into the area around Jaycee Park. Confederate flags flew and Klan insignias were on the clothing of the occupants of the vehicles as well as bandanas over their faces.

Protesters — some in their own red bandanas — immediately flanked the Klan members and began a volley of shouting exchanges.

It took about 20 minutes of shouting in profanity-filled language between Klansmen and protesters — and visible surveillance from City of Madison Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and Indiana State Police — for the Klan to get back in its vehicles, exit the gravel lot next to the basketball courts at Jaycee Park, and head west on Vaughn Drive.

A man who identified himself as Mike Gamms from New York said he and a few friends were throwing the party before the protest group, wearing bandanas, showed up to wait for the incoming Klan. He said he did not know any of the protesters.

One of the bandana-clad protesters, who would not give his name, said he was with a group called the Hoosier Anti-Racist Movement.

A Facebook page identifies the group as Hoosier Anti-Racist Movement / Indiana Antifa Support.

By a little after 3 p.m., the Klan and protesters had left.