“NO NAZIS, NO KKK, NO FASCIST USA!” chanted hundreds of protesters who stood outside the heavily guarded Champaign Public Library on September 9, on what would otherwise have been a quiet Sunday evening. But on this particular evening Matt Hale, leader of the World Church of the Creator, a white supremacist group, was speaking inside the library.
The protest was led by Champaign-Urbana Unity and Struggle, a local anti-racism organization based on the UIUC campus. Unity and Struggle was joined by the Chicago Anti-Racist Action Group. Several members of the Chicago Anti-Racist Action Group wore bandannas over their faces to conceal their identity from police.
After the initial chant, members of Unity and Struggle talked with the crowd about their views on racism and how to fight it. One member of Unity and Struggle, Matthew Quest, spoke about his views on racial profiling in the C-U area, and shared details of personal experiences with local law enforcement officials. An older white woman in the crowd, who disagreed with his views, told the demonstrators that the police were doing their job and that “we need to appreciate our police more.”
Zach Miller, a community member and local activist, discussed the media and the effects of its selective coverage of racial issues. He referred to the two TV station crews from WCIA Channel 3 and WICD Channel 15, who had covered the prayer vigil earlier but departed right before the protest speeches began. Miller stressed the importance of independent media centers arising in communities around the world to counter the corporate bias in the news.
Other topics discussed were racial inequality in our public school system, Israel/Palestine, the War on Drugs, and Chief Illiniwek. Some topics elicited dissension, as was demonstrated by shouts of “If you don’t like the Chief, then leave!” Leaders of Unity and Struggle calmed the crowd by emphasizing the importance of being unified in opposition to institutionalized racism.
Following the speeches, many in the crowd marched around the library, where protesters and a large number of police officers stood facing each other on the corner of Green and Randolph Streets, waiting for Matt Hale to exit the library. The protesters were planning on shouting at him as he passed by. After about fifteen minutes, it was announced that Hale had departed in an MTD vehicle traveling in the opposite direction from the demonstrators. One individual expressed outrage that his tax dollars were being used to fund Hale’s transportation.
No arrests or violence occurred at the event, but emotions ran high. Some people expressed anger that the police would go so far to protect a white supremacist, but similar protection would in all likelihood not be provided for a civil rights or other progressive speaker.