Racists and fascists march in Paducah Skip to content

Racists and fascists march in Paducah

The Patriot Front did a flash demonstration in Paducah on Sunday, marching right by a Black church on the last Sunday of Black History Month.

3 min read

About 20 masked marchers who are apparently part of the white nationalist Patriot Front trooped through downtown Paducah on Sunday afternoon, according to WPSD-TV news reporter Kat Byars. 

On their way to the McCracken County courthouse and Paducah City Hall, the marchers, carrying Patriot Front and Confederate flags, passed near Washington Street Missionary Baptist Church, where services had just ended. Organized in 1855, the church is one of western Kentucky’s oldest historically Black congregations.  

WKMS FM News Director Derek Operle reported that Raynarldo Henderson, the church pastor, “was outside greeting his congregation when the group walked by.”

“It’s very unsettling … to think that in 2024, that people would gather and begin to march and have white coverings over their heads or draped across their faces,” Operle quoted Henderson. “It takes you way back and it’s disappointing.”

Henderson also said that it was particularly shocking that the group showed up on the final Sunday of Black History Month, according to Operle. 

Operle said that a video circulating on X (formerly Twitter) showed the group outside City Hall, "where they used a megaphone to broadcast anti-trans rhetoric.”

He also quoted Mayor George Bray: “For a group of people to be promoting white supremacy in downtown Paducah is damn disappointing to me, but I can’t honestly say whether or not they violated any laws.”

Operle said that “no disturbances or vandalism” was reported to police. 

Paducah-McCracken County NAACP President J.W. Cleary quickly issued a statement on behalf of the branch. “We express our deep concern and firm condemnation regarding the recent display of hate and intolerance witnessed today,” the statement said in part.   

People posted videos and still images of the marchers on social media. “A viewer sent Local 6 video of the group marching,” Byars said.

They were wearing matching white coverings for their faces and heads, khaki trousers, blue jackets, and khaki or brown baseball caps. Henderson said none of them said anything to him or church members.

Byars explained that the American Civil Liberties Union says “Patriot Front is a white supremacist group known to hold flash demonstrations across the United States.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center says “Patriot Front is a white nationalist hate group that broke off from Vanguard America in the aftermath of the deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, of August 12, 2017.”

The group, according to the SPLC, “is an image-obsessed organization that rehabilitated the explicitly fascist agenda of Vanguard America with garish patriotism. Patriot Front focuses on theatrical rhetoric and activism that can be easily distributed as propaganda for its chapters across the country.”

The website includes excerpts from Patriot Front’s manifesto: “The American Identity was something uniquely forged in the struggle that our ancestors waged to survive in this new continent. ... To be an American is to realize this identity and take up the national struggle upon one’s shoulders. Not simply by birth is one granted this title, but by the degree to which he works and fulfills the potential of his birth.”

And, “An African, for example, may have lived, worked, and even been classed as a citizen in America for centuries, yet he is not American. He is, as he likely prefers to be labelled, an African in America. The same rule applies to others who are not of the founding stock of our people as well as to those who do not share the common unconscious that permeates throughout our greater civilization, and the European diaspora.”

The Patriot Front flag has red and white stripes and a blue field with 13 stars encircling the fasces, a symbol of imperial Rome adopted by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s Fascist movement in the 1920s-1940s. Fascist Italy was allied with dictator Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in World War II.

“The group marching with Confederate and Patriot Front flags represents ideologies rooted in white supremacy and division,” the NAACP statement also said.

The statement added that the marchers sought to sow “seeds of discord in our community” and called upon “all members of our community to unite against racism and bigotry.” The statement said the Paducah-McCracken County NAACP stands with the Washington Street Church “and all those impacted by this incident,” and reiterates its “unwavering commitment to championing equality and injustice in our city, now more than ever.”

The statement concluded, “Let us view this disheartening event as a rallying cry to intensify our efforts in combating racism and discrimination. Together, we must continue to strive for a community where all individuals are valued and respected, regardless of their background. With unity and perseverance, the Paducah-McCracken County NAACP calls upon all residents to reject hatred and division, and to work towards a future where diversity is celebrated and embraced.”

The Rev. George Hurd, president of the Mayfield-Graves County NAACP, agrees with Henderson that the protest was timed for Black History Month. “It is through ignorance and hatred that groups like this are doing these things,” he said. “These things that we thought were dormant are being revitalized and fueled by hatred.”

He said the Mayfield-Graves County branch supports the Paducah-McCracken County statement. “We have to stand together, or divided we fall.”


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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY



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