Whites, Blacks push back against hate in Detroit suburb after KKK flag display

By: - February 22, 2021 1:37 pm

Feb. 21 “Hate Has No Home Here” march and rally in Grosse Pointe Park | Ken Coleman photo

Hundreds of neighbors marched and rallied in Grosse Pointe Park on Sunday several days after an African-American resident spotted a Ku Klux Klan flag in her next door neighbor’s window. 

The Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods NAACP Branch and a community-based organization, We GP, organized a “Hate Has No Home Here” rally to support JeDonna Matthews Dinges after she said her neighbor placed the symbol of hate in her eyesight. 

“Today we are standing up loudly to declare that hate has no home in Grosse Pointe Park or anywhere in America,” Dinges told a crowd that gathered at St. Ambrose Parish during the mid-afternoon march.  

Dinges has lived in the Detroit suburb for 11 years. On Feb. 15, she noticed that the flag was in her neighbor’s window. Grosse Pointe Park’s Department of Public Safety sent detectives to visit Dinges’ neighbor and told him to take down the flag. The name of her neighbor has not been released. 

Ku Klux Klan flag | JeDonna Dinges photo

“We need to make it clear that that sort of behavior is not welcome in our city,” said Grosse Pointe Park Mayor Robert Denner.

Grosse Pointe Park is about 8% Black, according to U.S. Census data. It’s one of the five Grosse Pointes, whose well-off communities were among the last in the metro Detroit region to have African-American residents. Last year, Darci McConnell became the first African American to serve on the Grosse Pointe Park City Council. She attended the event Sunday, as did state Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) and state Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) .

“Our goal is to make sure that people in our community are safe, are protected and can live in their homes the way that you do, and raise their children,” said Hollier to the predominately white crowd.  

Tate reminded them that racism and discrimination should not have a place in American society. He pointed out that he and his African-American colleagues have endured over the last 10 months symbols of hate on display by right-wing demonstrators on the Michigan Capitol grounds and inside the building. Last April, state Sen. Dale Zorn (R-Ida) wore a protective mask that appeared to have a Confederate flag design on it. 

“Ultimately, what we have to do in moving our society forward is to be embedded in the values that we hold dear to us,” Tate said. “Those of liberty, those of justice, those of equality for all. Anything that goes against that stagnates our society.”

Formed by Confederate soldiers just after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan has continually waged a campaign of terror and violence against Blacks and their white supporters. The group has played a role in Michigan in recent history, as well.

Historymaker: McConnell becomes first African-American legislator in Grosse Pointe Park 

On Oct. 21, 1971, a federal grand jury indicted Robert Miles of Howell — a former Michigan Ku Klux Klan grand dragon — and four others on conspiracy charges in the bombing of 10 empty school buses in Pontiac on Aug. 30, 1970. The effort was designed to keep African-American children from racially integrating white public schools in the Oakland County city. The white men were convicted on May 21, 1972.

Two decades later, the Ku Klux Klan rallied at the Michigan Capitol on April 23,1994. More than 800 people attended the gathering according to Detroit Free Press reporting.

Dinges was grateful and pleased with the turnout at Sunday’s anti-racism event. 

“My heart is full, especially with the number of people who have reached out to me,” she said. “It’s been unbelievable.” 

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.