From the Archives: Klansmen heckled at 1979 border rally

July 4, 1979: Members of the Ku Klux Klan hold a rally at Boarder Field State Park in Imperial Beach
July 4, 1979: Members of the California Knights of the Ku Klux Klan hold a rally at Border Field State Park in San Diego.
(Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)

On Independence Day 1979, the California Knights of the Ku Klux Klan held an anti-immigration rally at a park in San Diego next to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Staff writer Ed Sylvester reported in the July 5, 1979, Los Angeles Times:

The picnickers sunning themselves and munching hot dogs hardly looked up when about 20 men in black storm trooper-style suits clumped across the grass carrying black plywood shields and wearing black motorcycle helmets with the face masks down, one leading a Doberman pinscher.

The men placed the shields in a circle around a table, produced a portable cooler and began drinking beer and munching bananas.


“There are a lot of freaks here today,” one of them said.

But for a while it looked like the first outing of the California Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in their new outfits was going to fizzle. Even the children darting about at the Border Field State Park rally kept asking reporters what station they were from, all but ignoring the stars of the show.

Then the Revolutionary Communist Party showed up.

“Fascist pigs! Tools of the American imperialists!” a handful of Revolutionary Communists and other leftist hecklers cried. “Death to the klan!”


“Commies!” the klansmen cried back. “White power!”

If anyone had expected more than a battle of slogans, San Diego police dimmed the odds.

Eight officers at the park entrance relieved the klansmen of two shotguns and an assortment of canes, clubs, sticks and baseball bats that a sergeant called “a cache of weapons primarily used to do bodily harm.”

They also searched other vehicles in case “anyone opposed to the klan should try to bring weapons in,” the sergeant said.

Tom Metzger, grand dragon of the state Knights of the KKK, was angry at losing the implements with which, he said, the klansmen were going to play a baseball game on the border. The rest of the material, he said, was defensive.

“That’s the country you’re living in, white man,” Metzger said. “I can’t bring my wife and kids anywhere for a white celebration. We try to legally assemble and we get harassed.”

Metzger had chosen the park because it sits on the Mexican border, its southern border, its southern fence marking the international boundary.

Using a loudspeaker, he addressed a political statement to “the Mexican people,” saying the klan was not their enemy and urging them to stop illegally immigrating into the United States and taking American jobs. ...


After about an hour, the klansmen packed up and left the park, saying they were going to join families for a private celebration at an un disclosed location.

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