Arkansas Town Covers 'K-K-K' Facades on Three Historic Buildings

SS Marshal stars now cover the letters “K-K-K” that were on the façades of three buildings in Arkansas.

The letters appeared on buildings 912, 403, and 405 Garrison Avenue in downtown Fort Smith, the Southwest Times Record reported.

The newspaper reached out to Fort Smith Mayor George McGill about the letters, which stand for the white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan. McGill, in turn, contacted the building owners, Richard Griffin and Benny Westphal, who agreed to cover the letters on the three buildings. Griffin told the publication that the KKK is “a shameful organization.”

“Those letters are offensive to several residents in Fort Smith, many of whom are good friends of ours. I’ve never walked in their shoes, but I certainly wouldn’t want to send the wrong message to anyone,” said Griffin.

Griffin owns two of the properties and Westphal owns the third. Westphal told the Southwest Times Record that he and Griffin agreed to cover the offensive letters with US Marshals stars because the Marshals used the city as its headquarters for the Western District of Arkansas, which included the Native American lands in what is now Oklahoma. The owners tried to take down the letters but had to cover them up. The letters are welded into the facades and would require demolition for permanent removal.

Griffin told the publication he was unaware of anything linking the buildings to the white supremacist group, but the Southwest Times Record found that the KKK was present in downtown Fort Smith during the 1920s and had ties to at least one mayoral election in the city. Charolette Tidwell, a resident of the city, told the newspaper she first noticed the letters in the 1960s. She said she was “delighted” to learn that the letters were going to be covered up.

“The community needs to understand the value of diversity and the value of how we promote diversity,” Tidwell stated.

“Whether they’re in our history or in our common practice, we remove the insult to people.”

Earlier this month, potential homebuyers found items associated with white supremacy while touring the home of a Michigan police officer. Robert and Reyna Mathis told WOOD-TV they were touring Officer Charles Anderson’s home on August 7 in Muskegon, Michigan with their real estate agent when they discovered Confederate flags and an application for the Ku Klux Klan framed on his wall.

“There’s just this one plaque on the wall, so I walk over to the wall and take a closer look, it said it was a KKK application,” Robert Mathis previously told the news station. “I said, ‘I want to get out [of] here right now.’”

“To know that I was walking around on property associated with some type of racism, some type of hate, when I got outside I felt like I needed to be dipped in sanitizer,” he said.

Mathis said he knew Anderson was a police officer because he noticed photos of him in his home wearing his uniform. Following the news of the incident, the City of Muskegon Government wrote in a Facebook statement that the officer has been placed on administrative leave and more information will be available to the public once the investigation is complete.

“The Muskegon Police Department has opened an internal investigation after a social media post was brought to our attention accusing an officer of being in possession of certain items associated with a white supremacy group. The officer was immediately placed on administrative leave, pending a thorough investigation,” the statement read.

“The City of Muskegon requests your patience as we thoroughly investigate this issue. Further information will be available upon completion of the investigation,” the statement continued.

Civil rights organizations have called on the Muskegon Police Department and city officials to conduct a full review of Anderson’s conduct while on duty, WZZM reported at the time.

Muskegon County NAACP’s President Eric Hood, a retired police officer and the city’s Vice Mayor, told the news station that he wants the department to investigate Anderson’s traffic stop and arrest records to see if there is a disproportionate number of people of color who have been arrested or ticketed by the officer.

“[Like] the NAACP we’re waiting patiently for results of this inquiry,” Hood told WZZM. “I would just say to the community to do the same, peacefully and respectfully do the same and see what the outcome is.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.