Image on left illustrates
Deputies as they wait at the U. S. District Courthouse in Washington, D.C. for
orders to move out to prevent violence at the Ku Klux Klan march down
Constitution Avenue. U.S. Marshals joined with local police
agencies to keep anti-klan demonstrators from clashing with participants
in the Klan march.
Washington, D.C. is not your ordinary American city and Sunday, October
28, 1990 was not just another ordinary day in the nation's capital.
Congress was still trying to finalize the 1991 budget. The White
house was considering its response to Saddam Hussein's bellicose
rhetoric from the Mid-east. And a District Court Judge was granting the
KLI Klux Klan
permission to march down Constitution.
For most Washingtonians, tensions at home and abroad become very
common place events and are generally taken very calmly. However, the
idea or a Ku Klux Klan march on the city's streets was a different
matter. As word of the Klan rally raced through D.C. neighborhoods,
local law enforcement officials became concerned and apprehensive.
The issue of granting marching permits to the Klan provoked some
interagency tensions among police departments. However, one agency
silently kept its vigil on events to come, and prepared for the worst.
That agency was the district office of the U.S. Marshals Service.
The court order which permitted the Klan to march was issued at 1 :30
a.m. on Sunday. But for U.S. Marshal Herbert M. Rutherford, III,
it came as no surprise. Since he was familiar with past rallies in the
city, he also knew that there would probably be counter-demonstrations
which would likely bring the potential for violence to the streets of
Washington. Using his authority as the top-ranking federal law
enforcement official in the city, Rutherford began to coordinate and
federalize operations for the rally through the U. S. Marshals Service's
With the immediate approval of senior officials, a major call up of
Deputy Marshals was initiated for the District and Superior Courts of
Washington, D.C., the Eastern District of Virginia and the District of
Maryland to provide supply and logistical support. By 7 a.m.. only five
and one-half hours after the Federal district Judge issued his order,
the operational command staff had assembled. An hour later, full
coordination had begun with the U.S.
Park Police and U.S. Capitol Police Intelligence.
By 10 a.m., more than 80 Deputies and administrative personnel had
assembled and were receiving their briefings. Because the D.C.
Metropolitan Police Department was tasked with primary coverage of the
march route, the Marshals had a different mission. Rutherford issued
directives for the Marshals to stage as the final protective line for
departments involved and to seal any breeches that developed in the
lines and make demonstrator arrests.
Some U.S. Marshals were also designated as transportation teams to
take arrestees away on large USMS buses and vans. Additionally,
members of the Special Operations Group arrived in a team element to
support the rapid deployment of Deputies. Their prompt arrival
maintained the Group's reputation for quick response.
All in all, the Marshals Service was able to deploy more than 80
people within three hours of the Klan march and have them fully equipped
to provide an enforcement role equal to the other participating police
agencies. The Marshals remained involved throughout the demonstration.
which eventually resulted in 40 demonstrators being arrested and seven
police officers injured, one with a fractured neck.
Above image illustrates
Participants in the Washington D.C. Ku Klux Klan march of October 28,
1990 proceed down Constitution Avenue. Anti-Klan demonstrators
rallied on an adjoining block but were kept in check by U.S. Marshals
and other law enforcement agencies.
The Klan march in Washington was not a new experience for the Marshals
Service. Such civil rights disturbances and crowd control events
are part of the Marshals' history - in fact, much of the Service's
visibility came from participation in actions to enforce civil rights
laws. During these fast paced and rapidly changing days of the 1900s, it
appears only a select few remember the tense days of 1962 when
U.S. marshals escorted James Meredith to
the University of Mississippi amid strong and dangerous protest.
Meredith was a black American who wanted an education at the college
of his choice, which happened to be the University of Mississippi. When
a Federal court ordered that Meredith be allowed to register at the
University, Deputy marshals enforced the order. Those Marshals were
present during the extremely volatile demonstrations and riots that
resulted. Though facing constant harassment and assault, they diligently
and discipline and still held the line.
Another example of the Marshals involvement in crowd control and
civil disturbances took place in 1968. That year widespread rioting.
arson, and looting took place in the streets of the District of
Columbia. Once again U.S. Marshals were on the scene, making arrests and
protecting the citizens of our capital.
And what about the Ku Klux Klan and the streets of Washington D.C.?
Will the U.S. Marshals face a similar situation in the future?
Probably so. If a return visit does come about, the preparations
of law enforcement agencies may be different. In the early 1990's,
the U.S. Marshal met with the heads of all participating agencies to
discuss new strategies. These included meetings with the
Metropolitan Police Department to devise a system to avoid costly court
battles with rallying groups, provide adequate protection, and
ultimately prevent an excessive financial burden on the taxpayer.