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Danny G. Holwdera Jr. holds his sign outside Red River High School Tuesday in Grand Forks. Submitted photo

Grand Forks demonstrator praises school action against students in KKK garb

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Danny G. Holwerda Jr. stood at a street corner near Grand Forks' Red River High School on Tuesday, holding a sign with the phrase "Racism will not stand."

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But he wasn't there to protest the school, he said, but to support the school's admonishment of three students who wore Ku Klux Klan attire at a hockey game on Friday.

"It was the Red River School that ultimately inspired me to use the sign, because that's what the students and those teachers did," he said. "They wouldn't stand for it."

A photo of the trio in their white robes and hoods went viral online after a UND student posted it during the game on the social networking website Twitter. School officials said other students surrounding the trio immediately told them to remove the costumes. The officials said the trio, who are freshmen, will be punished.

Holwerda, who is white and African-American, said he "felt something needed to be said" after he heard about the photo.

Local reaction

He said he stood at the corner of 17th Avenue South and South Columbia Road from 6:50 to 8:40 a.m., as passersby honked and took photos.

By his count, 23 people took photos, 17 raised their fist to symbolize black pride and two brought him warm drinks. He lost count at the number of people who honked their horn, but three openly yelled at him in anger, he said.

"They might have thought I was protesting the school," he said. "One person was more threatening than the others, but I don't think they understood what I was doing."

In response to Holwerda's demonstration, Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson said the administration has addressed the incident extensively over the past five days and appropriate action has been taken toward the students.

"We are moving forward from this incident, as it is not representative of Red River High School or its student body," he said in a statement.

History

Holwerda said, "Part of my job is to advocate for people who have developmental disabilities, and I have a responsibility to advocate for myself as well."

He is also a lay pastor at Gospel Outreach Ministries in Grand Forks, but was demonstrating on his own behalf.

Holwerda said he did it in part to honor Martin Luther King Jr. during Black History month and his mother, who was raised in Mobile, Ala., when the Klansmen held power. He said he listened to his mother's stories about the Klan while growing up, so "it's a very close-to-home thing."

"I made it very clear to people that I'm not doing it in anger because that's not what Dr. Martin Luther King would have supported," he said.

Although he has never demonstrated before, he said he felt the situation was serious enough to warrant his participation.

"I would rather be there as a symbol to show I support the school and the resistance against this," he said. "And that African Americans in this area support that movement, too."

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