Updated: May 4, 2021
"You don’t have to go around getting a headache because of things you don’t like, you don’t have to try to knock down doors all the time, that if you work together with other people things can change.”
When it was first announced that the Ku Klux Klan would hold a rally on the State Capitol steps on August 25, 2001, several groups in the Twin Cities called for counter demonstrations at the Capitol. A group formed in Minneapolis called “Can the Klan”. In St. Paul, gang members and other groups also wanted to confront the KKK.
The Peaceful Love Warriors (PLW) met and decided to adhere to the advice of the Southern Poverty Law Center: ignore the Klan and limit the time, energy and exposure they are given. At the next PLW meeting, several members made it clear that they could not ignore the Klan and resented being told to do so. The PLW made a group decision to proactively address the issue by providing a safe location away from the Capitol to hold a Community Peace Celebration. This space would allow those whose commitment to justice leads them past confrontation to make a statement about the peaceful future we wished for our communities. We were eventually joined by the Police Department, the Department of Human Rights, and local grassroots organizations including the Disciple Nation, a group of former gang members. Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Rev. Peg Chemberlin of the Minnesota Council of Churches and other key local religious leaders were at the table during the planning process.
The celebration was a tremendous success, welcoming nearly a thousand St. Paul residents and peace lovers (including Police Chief Finney and mayor Norm Coleman), a healing ceremony, free entertainment, food, ice cream, and wonderful cooperation from local law enforcement, religious organizations, schools, and non-profits. Melvin Giles, one of the PLW organizers at that time, explains: “It was a multicultural healing celebration. We had eight Peace Poles, where people could come and pour dirt on the Poles as a symbol of our oneness. We had Irish dancers, Native American drummers, we even had police officers being saged by Native American spiritual leaders. And I believe it might have been the only time the police and gang members worked together side-by-side to patrol the parking lot. So, that concept of peace really took a leap forward, inspiring people to see that you don’t have to go around getting a headache because of things you don’t like, you don’t have to try to knock down doors all the time, that if you work together with other people things can change.”