Allan: But towards the end of Mike’s term the Ku Klux Klan came to town. I say came to town—some of them live among us, you know, we found out. But at the time they were coming, Mike had the community plan an alternative event that people would go to at Shanklin Park instead of going to watch the Klan downtown. And so there were a lot of people that attended that and out of that grew Diversity Day in Goshen; so every year they celebrated the diversity of the community. And things like that started happening. And the Ku Klux Klan was a big deal in town at the time.
And then Mike left office, and soon after I got into office, the Klan came back. And that time we said, “Well, we’re going to start a pledge against prejudice and for every minute that you’re demonstrating in Goshen, we’re going to collect pledges, and we’re going to give half of it to the Human Relations Commission and half of it to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Well, the Klan hates the Southern Poverty Law Center, so I don’t remember how many thousand dollars we raised, but we split it between the two, and the Klan has not been back since then. I don’t know if it was that reason or just whatever.
But then, after that event we passed a no-mask ordinance in Goshen. And that was controversial at the time, and there were progressive people in Goshen that didn’t want to see it passed—not a lot of them—but there was talk in City Council meeting against the no-mask ordinance. And the Klan sat in the back row with robes and hoods on, and it was a tense meeting. And the rules of the council were always that you had to identify yourself if you wanted to speak, and so the head of the Klan wanted to speak, and I said, “Well, you have to take your hood off and give us your name.”
And he agreed to do that if the TV cameras didn’t train on him. So he came up, took his hood off, and gave his name. Our Police Chief was sitting in the back of the room and he’s going like this, you know [Allan shakes his head]. That wasn’t his name—he knew the guy— the guy was a local. And so I said, “Well, evidently that’s not your real name. What is it?” So he gave me a different name and went on to speak.
But the most powerful testimony at that meeting was our African American postmaster, who, when he moved to Goshen, he said was not allowed to buy a home in Goshen. Between the realtors and the banks, he couldn’t get a mortgage inside the city, so he moved just outside the city. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but that’s what he always said. But he stood there and he said, “You don’t know what it’s like to talk to somebody when you don’t know who your talking to, and it’s a whole lot different when you can see somebody’s eyes and talk to them, but this is a whole lot different.”
So we had guidance from the Southern Poverty Law Center on how to fashion an ordinance that we thought would pass muster under the guise that, yeah, you have the right to say anything you want to, but not anonymously. Well, we got sued by the ACLU and we ended up losing that lawsuit. But it was interesting, during the deposition—I knew the attorney that was representing the ACLU through a friend of mine who grew up in Goshen too, Don Lumburgh(??), and he was friends with this person in Indianapolis, and so I knew from Don Lumburgh(??) that this fellow was Jewish, okay—and before the deposition starts I say, “Can I ask you a question?” He said, “What’s that?” I said, “How can you defend these people, because Jews are like number two on their list after African Americans.” And he said, “It’s all about the constitution.”
We lost that suit. You know, we spent about 50,000 dollars defending it, and the attorneys that worked with us said that they didn’t think it would do any good to appeal it to the next court because we’d probably lose there, too. So we spent some money—and 50,000 was no small sum of money at the time—but I think we did the right thing. You know, we made a statement about what the community feels. And it wasn’t the African Americans that [the Klan] was opposing; it was the Latinos that were moving into the community, and we were just not all white anymore.
And the person that took his hood off worked for a local company, and he got fired. But I don’t know if that was the reason or if he just wasn’t a good employee or what. But it was a shock to a lot of people to find out that there are people in the Klan that live amongst us. And there was a lady that lived over on Tenth Street that sewed robes and hoods for the Klan all over the United States, and we didn’t know that at the time. So we were still growing through that, and that was a really big issue at the time that I took over.