By LEO RODRIGUEZ
San Benito Historian
In the 1920s, the Rio Grande Valley was not immune to the spectacle of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) organization. Klansman directed their activities in the RGV against “bootleggers, adulterers, Jews, pacifists, radicals, Catholics, and evolutionists.” Scare tactics were more evident here than actual violence.
The KKK, wanting to show its power, boldly marched in San Benito’s Armistice Day Parade in 1919, much to the astonishment and dismay of local citizens.
The KKK was protesting the fact that immigrants had settled here, and some were even beginning to own businesses.
On Aug. 26, 1921, Harlingen was celebrating the first lighting of the “white way,” this being the decorative streetlights erected on Main (now Jackson) Street. As the block party on that Friday evening drew to a close, a disturbing specter appeared.
A Ku Klux Klan parade, in which 104 knights of the invisible empire led by a fiery cross and a United States flag, was the startling conclusion to a civic downtown lighting celebration.
Shortly after 9 p.m., when the streets were densely crowded, the Klansmen appeared, robed and masked, marching in regular order and without a command being spoken, every movement of the marchers being directed by motions of the leader.
Halting momentarily in the main part of town while a proclamation was being affixed to a telephone pole, the Klansmen again took up their march, passing silently through the main streets of the city, then through the Mexican section of town, and disappeared as silently as they had come.
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