In most cases, when two local organizations get together to discuss the issues affecting their community, it isn’t really a story worthy of national coverage. However, that rule ceases to apply when the meeting involves both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Ku Klux Klan.
The unlikely meeting occurred in Casper, Wyo., over the weekend after Jimmy Simmons, president of the local NAACP branch, reached out to KKK organizer John Abarr, according to the Casper Star-Tribune. Everyone involved was surprised when Abarr accepted the invitation.
Simmons was apparently concerned about several reports of black men getting beat up in Gillette, Wyo., as KKK literature began showing up around town. He first considered rallying against the KKK, but ultimately decided to try a different approach.
As Mediaite’s Josh Feldman points out, the meeting predictably awkward and tense at times:
As you would expect, there was a lot of tension in the room, because even though Abarr touted his credentials as a member of the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, he admitted he believes the northwest United States should secede and, while it would be unfair to kick out any black people currently living there, no more should be let in.
Abarr argued that some segregation is a good thing, adding that white police should remain in white neighborhoods and black cops in black neighborhoods. He also spoke against interracial marriage, “because we want white babies.”
Regarding reports of black men getting assaulted, Abarr actually agreed that they were hate crimes, though he defended the KKK literature as nothing but a public service.
“I like it because you wear robes, and get out and light crosses, and have secret handshakes,” he said of the Klan. “I like being in the Klan — I sort of like it that people think I’m some sort of outlaw.”
Mel Hamilton, another NAACP member, criticized Abarr for not knowing the murderous, hate-filled history behind the organization of which he is proudly a member.
“It’s obvious you don’t know the history of your organization,” Hamilton reportedly said. “It’s obvious to me that you’re not going out and talking about the good — you’re not talking about inclusion, you’re talking about exclusion. And it’s obvious to me you don’t know what you are.”
“So I don’t know what good this dialogue has done tonight,” he added.
“It’s obvious we don’t agree on everything,” the KKK organizer replied.
“I’d love to shake your hand tonight and truly believe that you have good will towards all people, and I can’t seem to come to that point,” Hamilton replied with a disappointed tone.
Perhaps the most bizarre part of the meeting though came at the end when Abarr reportedly filled out an application to join the NAACP. He also added a $20 donation on top of the $30 membership fee.
Read the full rundown of the meeting from the Casper Star-Tribune here.