We’ve all seen the footage by now. On Saturday afternoon, six Ku Klux Klansmen climbed out of their SUV, and a mob of counter-protesters converged on them. In the name of racial tolerance, they resorted to physical violence, battering the Klansmen with boards, knocking them to the ground, and kicking them repeatedly. The Klansmen fought back, using a flagpole to stab their assailants. As violent blood spattered hateful signs, we saw humanity’s ugly side.
But there was one hero. Amidst the disgraceful brawl, one man used his own body to shield those who hated him. Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino, had come to the event to interview the KKK cell’s leader, William Quigg. He had been following this group for years, as part of his research on hate groups.
Levin obviously abhors the KKK. For one thing, he’s a decent human being. Levin, as a Jew, is also one of the very people the KKK targets. (One of the Anaheim Klansmen even bore a sign reading “Jews are still trying to destroy the Christian religion.”) He was, nevertheless, horrified when a “phalanx” of anti-racist protestors viciously attacked. Levin told OC Weekly that he hurried over to find the SUV’s window smashed and two bloodied Klansmen on the ground, being savagely beaten.
Anaheim LWK Klan Rally. Excelt photog. Heather Boucher photos of me blocking Klansman from atk. Share/credit:Davini pic.twitter.com/Tpsz6TWegk— Brian Levin (@proflevin) February 28, 2016
The brave professor pushed his way between the mob and their victims, shouting, “Do not hit them! Do not hit them!” He recounts, “The protesters were going to tear these guys limb from limb. I don’t know how long I could’ve held them back.” He managed to help the Klansmen to their feet and lead them away, pleading with the crowd to stay back. At last, police arrived to quell the violence and arrest instigators on both sides.
Once order had been restored, Levin approached Quigg, one of the men he had just rescued. “So how does it feel to have your life saved by a Jewish guy?” he asked. The chastened KKK leader offered a begrudging “thank you.”
Klan Grand Dragon answers "How do you feel that a Jewish person helped save your life today?" LWK Rally Anahiem, CA pic.twitter.com/qsL9i9BXkB— Brian Levin (@proflevin) February 28, 2016
Unfortunately, even this supremely virtuous act did not destroy Quigg’s anti-Semitism. In the same conversation, he praised Hitler as a good leader and denied that the Holocaust ever happened. Levin was understandably incensed: “This, after I saved his a**!” We can still hope that underneath such bluster, Quigg’s prejudice against Jews has taken a blow.
Levin later explained, “I didn't protect them on philosophical grounds. They were two people on the ground, and I thought they were going to get killed." He denounced the violence as a misguided attempt to fight evil with evil:
It's a disgrace. This is precisely what the Klan wants. Does violence elevate us better than the Klan? I loathe the Klan. But these loathsome people can use their First Amendment rights in the free markets of ideas. Let them sit where they are for 20 minutes, hand out their drivel, and leave.
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