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Sunday Morning News

Illinois Ku Klux Klan Rally Revives Painful Past

Aired December 17, 2000 - 8:37 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It's no doubt a disturbing story. A Ku Klux Klan rally brings a painful past to the present for the town of Skokie, Illinois, as CNN's Lisa Price brings us the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Hey, hey, ho, ho, these racist thugs have got to go.

LISA PRICE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Undaunted by the fury of hundreds of protesters...

UNIDENTIFIED KLANSMEN: White power!

PRICE: ... the Ku Klux Klan rallied on the steps of the courthouse in Skokie, Illinois, the once predominantly Jewish suburb on Chicago's North Shore. They said there would be 200 of them but, in fact, there weren't even 20. It was in Skokie in 1978 where a neo- Nazi group attempted to march. The memories, painful.

ELLEN ROSENBLATT, SKOKIE RESIDENT: How hateful it was and it scared us.

PRICE: People here were stunned that anything like it could happen again.

(on camera): Even though the village of Skokie is holding its own racial unity rally on Sunday, many people thought it was their duty to be here today.

JOHN CABEY, ANTI-KLAN PROTESTER: We should be here right now to show the Klan, not just everyone else, but show the Klan that we will not stand for racism, that we will not stand for intolerance.

PRICE: But tolerance was not always the case. Even among anti- Klan protesters upset with the police and the Village of Skokie for allowing the rally to take place. At least a dozen people were arrested.

Lisa Price, CNN, Skokie, Illinois.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: African American voters turned out in record numbers for election 2000, but many question whether their voices were heard.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick with that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At black owned radio station WLIB, political talk show host Mark Riley is asking the question on the minds of many African Americans...

MARK RILEY, WLIB: We're asking you can you now support Governor George W. Bush's presidency as the Reverend Jesse Jackson has?

FEYERICK: For many black voters, election 2000 left a very bitter taste. Nine out of 10 African Americans voted for Al Gore in what one voter analyst called an historic turnout.

DAVID BOSITIS, JOINT CENTER FOR POLITICAL RESEARCH: Black voters in Florida feel like the election was stolen by George W. Bush, that A, it was stolen by keeping black voters from voting, and B, it was stolen by keeping black votes from being counted.

FEYERICK: Immediately after the election, the NAACP received dozens of calls, allegations of voting irregularities, including stories of harassment and intimidation, charges that bring up painful memories of America's past. Newark Mayor Sharpe James was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

MAYOR SHARPE JAMES (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: And I thought there was a new Florida, a new America. And then to see so many votes being thrown out, so many citizens being disenfranchised in my home state of Florida was shocking.

FEYERICK: A disproportionate number of votes that were marked as over votes or under votes and were not part of the total were in mostly minority communities.

REP. J.C. WATTS (R), OKLAHOMA: We're not dealing with a perfect system here. There were black votes, there were white votes, there were red, yellow and brown votes that did not get counted.

FEYERICK: Republican Congressman J.C. Watts saying President- electGeorge W. Bush deserves a fair chance. The question, has this election turned off black voters?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to lose the interest of voting so they might not -- they might, we might not come out as much as we did this time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He will be back in four years and we'll be back, too.

FEYERICK (on camera): So did African American voters lose or win? One analyst says it was those votes that helped keep Al Gore in the Florida race and community leaders say they've learned it's not just enough to get out the black vote, they've got to educate voters.

(voice-over): Over the radio or face to face, to make sure there's never again a question of whether they voted correctly.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Attorney General Janet Reno said last week the Justice Department is continuing to pursue each complaint of alleged voting irregularity, although a formal investigation is not underway.

PHILLIPS: Despite allegations of disenfranchising African Americans in the counting of votes, one fact is clear, this year's election saw a record number of African American voters turning out at the polls. And here to discuss the meaning of that turnout and the vote counting controversy is Tony Brown of "Tony Brown's Journal" on PBS. He's with us today from New York.

Tony, great to see you.

TONY BROWN, "TONY BROWN'S JOURNAL": Thank you. Good morning.

PHILLIPS: Good morning. The good news, record number of black voters turning out. The bad news, of course, these allegations of a so-called conspiracy. Do you think a conspiracy did take place?

BROWN: Well, in some areas I do think a conspiracy took place but there were a number of factors as to the disenfranchisement of blacks. One of the major ones was that Florida, for example, the black vote increased by 65 percent. The resources at the polling booths were strained. The entire system, the infrastructure of our polling, of our voting system is faulty. We can see that.

But in black communities, it was disproportionately faulty and in addition to that you had so many new black voters that that was a factor.

But one thing didn't disenfranchise blacks, a combination of things disenfranchised blacks.

PHILLIPS: And the combination is?

BROWN: Well, the combination is one, there was some racism. There is and anybody knows by now the whole chad scenario syndrome of our electoral system really not being as efficient as many Americans assumed it was.

PHILLIPS: So what does Bush have ahead of him here, Tony? What is he going to need to do to address the issues of particularly the black community?

BROWN: He's going to have to do a good job of being the president of all Americans. Politically, the black community won. By voting for Democrats, it alienated itself conspicuously from the Republican Party, which means that George W. Bush has to do something to bring enough blacks back into the fold and he has to do something to demonstrate to the vast majority of tolerant white people that he is not a racist. So therefore blacks have won.

PHILLIPS: Let's get back to the voting issue for a moment and Jesse Jackson. This is the person who we see on the television and leading the rallies and talking about African Americans being disenfranchised. Is he truly the leader and the spokesperson for the black community?

BROWN: No, I don't think he's the leader. On the other hand, if there weren't a Jesse Jackson, there are about a million other blacks who would take his place. You have to look at blacks the same way you look at whites and that is that we are, we go all over the place in terms of the political spectrum. There are blacks who depend on Jesse Jackson's leadership, but I don't think the majority of black people make their decisions based on what Jesse Jackson says.

PHILLIPS: Well, Jackson made a very strong statement. I'm quoting it here from an article in "U.S. News & World Report," that "the three targets of ballot oppression, Holocaust survivors, Haitian boat people and American descendants of slaves." That's a pretty powerful statement.

BROWN: Well, I think it's over the top. In addition to that, I think in order for Jesse Jackson to be of service to the Democratic Party, he largely has used the civil rights movement with the Democratic Party's aspirations and interests. And that's clever and it works to some extent. Unfortunately, in the end, black people can become marginalized from the mainstream in this society and that will be a much more devastating effect than anything we've seen recently.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about Colin Powell, the recent appointment as Secretary of State, and Condoleezza Rice, talks of she will be the next one to be appointed to the administration. Good thing politically, good thing for the black community? How do you feel about the appointments and the possible appointment?

BROWN: I think it's an excellent thing for America. I have a talk show on radio in Chicago and I got a call from someone who was a black man who was unhappy with Colin Powell's appointment. Colin Powell would have been appointed Secretary of State had Bush won by 100 points. Colin Powell is not a token. Colin Powell was not appointed because Bush needed, only needed to win favor in the black community. That's one factor.

The other thing, I had a white woman, Gore supporter who called and didn't want Colin Powell to be a black American. She wanted to define him as a Jamaican, unlike being an African American.

It's unfortunate that the water has been poisoned, the political climate has been so poisoned that we have a phenomenal outstanding American like Colin Powell and like Condoleezza Rice, who was a provost at Stanford, one of the major universities in the world, background in intelligence and foreign, national security policies in a previous administration and the black community is not celebrating it. And some people in the white community only see it as a token black appointment. That's unfortunate and what we've got to realize in this country is we didn't all come over on the same ship but we're all in the same boat.

PHILLIPS: Well, Tony...

BROWN: And we've got to live in this country together.

PHILLIPS: Definitely. You can't disregard the background of both of them and their intellectual stature and their experience, definitely.

Tony Brown, thank you so much for being with us. It's good --

BROWN: Thank you very much.

PHILLIPS: It's definitely going to be an issue we will address in the number of months ahead.

BROWN: All right, I thank you very much.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Tony.

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