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Klan, Police and Media Preparing Skokie for the KKK

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 49 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2001 Pages: 84-88
Rick Rosenthal
Date Published
May 2001
5 pages
Police work with the media before, during, and immediately after the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) rally in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, IL, on December 16, 2000, provides guidance for all law enforcement agencies that may face a similar situation in the future.
The public information officers (PIOs) of the Skokie Police Department and the Cook County Sheriff's Office took the leadership in dealing with the media. The PIOs worked closely with the media from the very moment the rally was scheduled, so as to get timely and accurate information to the citizens of Skokie. A central feature of the police message to the citizens was that although the police department found the Klan's philosophy repugnant, its members were still entitled to protection under the law. The Crime Prevention Bureau, a community policing group, emphasized this same message in numerous meetings with community groups. Also, community leaders scheduled a "Peace and Harmony" rally at the local high school the day after the Klan demonstration. When interacting with the media, the PIO's continually reminded reporters about this event. In the weeks leading up to the rally, the PIOs worked with operational and tactical commanders to craft reasonable plans for media access and support. In the 24 hours prior to the rally, the media were informed by the PIOs about lane closures and street blockages around the courthouse, where the rally was to occur. The PIOs found, however, that they had overlooked having a strong tactical police presence at the media staging area, since Klan members went immediately to the media upon arriving at the rally prior to its beginning. During the rally, the police designated areas for the Klan demonstrators, opposition demonstrators, and the media. Overall, the police were successful in preventing violence while ensuring that the Klan demonstrators and the opposition demonstrators did not have unreasonable obstacles to the free expression of their ideas.