MEMPHIS (AP) — A Ku Klux Klan chapter has been granted a demonstration permit to protest the renaming of three Memphis parks that honored the Confederacy and two of its most prominent figures.
In a written statement Tuesday, City Attorney Herman Morris said the permit was issued to the Loyal White Knights, which plans a rally in Memphis on March 30.
The planned protest is in response to the renaming of Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, Jefferson Davis Park, and Confederate Park by the City Council on Feb. 5.
The name change angered fans of Forrest, a slave trader, Confederate cavalryman and member of the first version of the Klan. Supporters of the changes say Forrest was a racist who should not be honored with a park.
City officials knew that denying the permit application would result in a long, divisive legal fight, Morris said. Police Director Toney Armstrong said his main priority is to protect “the public and all involved.”
“It will be in all of our best interest to have a demonstration where we are able to work with this group in setting the do’s and don’ts,” Armstrong said. “Right now, my team has a strategy that will ensure everyone’s safety.”
The council already had been considering changing the name of Forrest Park but decided to rename the other two parks after a state House member proposed a bill that would prevent parks named after historical military figures from being renamed.
The House voted Monday to approve the bill. It does not apply retroactively to the Memphis parks.
The council temporarily changed Confederate Park to Memphis Park; Jefferson Davis Park to Mississippi River Park; and Nathan Bedford Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park. A committee will recommend permanent names.