Slingshot: White Pride and Prejudice in Huntington Beach
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Hatred looms on the horizon in Huntington Beach.
Ku Klux Klan propaganda sealed in plastic bags first arrived on the doorsteps of homes in Newport Beach before making similar Easter morning appearances in HB. The littering came amid a planned "White Lives Matter" rally at the pier slated to take place today.
It's not a new tactic.
In recent years, the Loyal White Knights of the KKK have left flyers in Fullerton, Santa Ana, Orange and Anaheim. Only, back then those baggies came with a rock and a Tootsie Roll. Will Quigg, an infamous OC klukker, must've exhausted his Halloween candy stash this time around, if, indeed, he's the man behind the hate mail. In 2016, Quigg's Klan held a rally-turned-melee at Pearson Park in Anaheim where the Invisible Empire once gathered 20,000 strong in 1924.
Huntington Beach is no historical stranger to the Klan, either.
On Labor Day weekend that same year, HB expected to receive as many as 20,000 klukkers for festivities that included Klan marching bands, an aerial circus and a fireworks show. Carl Goetz, who helped organize the event, announced that 5,000 Klansmen alone would participate in the Labor Day morning parade as well as a 75-piece Klan band. And, in a show of force, they'd be parading with hoods off.
"If our friends want to find out who Klansmen are," said Goetz, "they will have the opportunity to look hundreds of them in the face if they attend the celebration."
J.A. Armitage, secretary of the HB Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the Hooded Order to town by assuring ample parking and other accommodations would greet the masses.
A full-page ad in the Aug. 28, 1924 edition of the Santa Ana Register promoted the weekend events without mentioning the Klan. Former Register staff writer Tom Lewis was set to deliver a keynote speech on Labor Day entitled "100% Americans" as the Grand Exalted Cyclops of the LA Klan. But the day after the announcement, a civil war brewed within the ranks of LA klukkers, culminating in Lewis' firing. He splintered off and created an "independent" Klan.
Tiffs aside, the Labor Day parade carried on and seemed to be a success. A framed panoramic photo from the event housed at the Anaheim Heritage Center shows Klansmen and their families in white robes with their hoods off. Visiting Klan marching band members from Santa Monica proudly posed by their instruments.
The wife of Charles McClure, Brea's first police chief and a documented member of the Klan, spent Labor Day in HB as reported in a social column that appeared in the Register.
(Quick aside: she must've been working on her Klan tan at the beach!).
Labor Day "Klanorama" photo in Huntington Beach (1924) / Courtesy Anaheim Public Library
But the following month, the Klan encountered controversy when it planned to return to HB for another parade, this time marking Armistice Day. The Anaheim and Fullerton Kiwanis clubs threatened to pull their floats from the festivities following an announcement of the Hooded Order's participation.
Two days later, the Klan bowed out under pressure.
"In the interests of peace and harmony, we will refrain from participation," read a statement from Dr. Roy S. Horton, a Klansman and Santa Ana school board trustee. "We wish to state, however, that many Klansmen will be present and as individuals will give themselves whole-heartedly to the end that the observation of Armistice Day may be a success."
Indeed, as the Klan noted, the Hooded Order had been invited in the first place. Lewis Blodget, HB's city attorney, sought to meet with the Kiwanis clubs to smooth things out as he was the chairman of the parade committee.
"In admitting that he would seek to bring about an accord on the matter Blodget said that the Huntington Beach parade committee had not been cognizant of the intense bitterness existing in the two north Orange county towns when plans for the parade were made," reported the Register, "and regretted that the exception had been taken to the invitation issued to county klans to participate."
The year before, Blodget hadn't been so inviting when signing off on a Lion's Club resolution demanding that socialist Eugene Debs, who opposed U.S. intervention in World War I and spent years in prison for it, not be allowed to speak in Huntington Beach following its Labor Day celebration.
As Anaheim was on the cusp of ousting four Klan city councilmen in a February 1925 recall election, the tide began turning against the Invisible Empire in HB. In January, the city's Lion's Club ousted three prominent members, including city councilman Charles Boster, for attending a luncheon in town with Reverend Leon Myers, the Anaheim-based Exalted Cyclops of the OC Klan. The club accused the men of snitching on locals in the battle over bootlegging.
HB city council followed that same month by denying the use of a public auditorium for a speech by Reverend E.J. Bulgin, a traveling preacher and suspected Klan agitator.
The stage was set for a recall effort amid the acrimony. Councilmen Richard Drew and James Macklin were targeted by a circulating petition. One of the reasons cited was the blocking of Bulgin by the councilmen, a move that deprived residents of the chance to hear his speech.
By April, the Chamber of Commerce had stern words for the Hooded Order it allowed to parade on its streets just months prior and now blamed for the recall, believing the Klan wanted to replace the targeted councilmen with its own members.
"The Ku Klux Klan would take away the rights of American citizenship, and substitute secret political plots and methods by dictating to their members what they shall do," said Sam Bowen, president of the chamber. "We should set ourselves against being dominated by an organization governed by prejudice, hatred, and intolerance."
Lofty words, but hardly without hypocrisy.
The quote came on the heels of Bowen's chamber, itself, spearheading public opposition to the Pacific Beach Club, a planned African American resort that unknown arsonists later burned to the ground on the morning of January 21, 1926 just a few weeks shy of its opening, a story for another Slingshot.
Undeterred by Bowen's anti-Klan declaration, but not on account of its hypocrisy, residents continued pushing for the recall and claimed the Klan served as a convenient scapegoat against it.
The effort carried on for months. Blodget, as city attorney, advised city councilmembers to take no action on the recall on the grounds that the petition presented was inadequate. William Taylor Newland, a ranch owner and "Bishop of Huntington Beach," took the matter to Superior Court in hopes of compelling the council to order a recall election, but a judge sided with Blodget in July.
Another fatal blow came when one of the leaders of the recall effort left HB for Long Beach later that month.
Almost a century later, the remnants of the Klan have planned a return to Huntington Beach. But it's not just the refashioned black uniformed klukkers causing trouble. Neo-Nazis and Proud Boys have teamed up over Telegram for the nationwide "White Lives Matter" rallies. An image from a non-Klan flyer shows the same artwork used by Vanguard America, a white supremacist group that morphed into the fascist Patriot Front.
Unlike the Klan at Labor Day, the flyer encourages rally goers to wear masks for the sake of anonymity.
With kounter-protests planned and intense media attention on HB, whoever is truly organizing the rally is now claiming the location won't be revealed until today. Will extreme prejudice come to the pier again? Did it ever really leave?
The uncomfortable truth for Huntington Beach and Orange County alike is that apparitions of the Klan, past and present, are hardly the only harbingers of hate.
- Gabriel San Román
Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina
Abigail Disney is a class traitor--and damn proud of it. The granddaughter of Roy O. Disney continues to speak out against income inequality. The heiress backed Senator Bernie Sanders, a prominent Disney critic, in his effort to raise taxes on inherited wealth, like her own fortune. "My grandfather paid a much higher effective tax rate than we do now, and yet still managed, after paying off the Estate Tax, to leave significant wealth behind to benefit not only his son, but his four grandchildren and even his 16 great-grandchildren," said Disney before a Senate Budget Committee hearing last month. "What did we ever do to earn the first dollar and what gives us the right to think that any dollar given to the government is a dollar stolen from us?"
With an attention-grabbing last name, she remains outspoken as a member of the Patriotic Millionaires. The group is the subject of a recent profile in the Guardian with Disney being the lead. In it, the filmmaker and activist declined to disclose her net worth, but mentioned that she's given $72 million away to various causes focused on women experiencing hardships like incarceration or domestic violence.
But Disney knows that charity is no substitute for justice and favors progressive taxation policies that aim to redistribute wealth.
In championing such, she also revealed some intimate details how the Disney dynasty changed. Michael Eisner, as CEO, turned the company her grandfather co-founded with Walt Disney into a modern corporate empire in the 1980s. Pushing back on the "greed is good" ethos of the era, the explosion of dividends following animated blockbusters like Beauty and the Beast drove a wedge between her and Roy E. Disney, her father.
He bought a private Boeing 737; she refused to step foot in it and started parting with her fortune from there on.
When income inequality became a fault-line at the Disneyland Resort, Disney met with workers fighting for a living wage through a ballot initiative and contract campaigns in 2018 and 2019.
“It kills me,” Disney told the Guardian, “because as a child I went there with my grandfather. Now, I may have rose-tinted glasses when looking back, but there was an almost reverence for him, and he had such a rapport with the people who worked there. He would be horrified."
Dear Abby: can we interest you in starting up a muckraking newspaper in Disneyland's backyard?