Black woman recalls day she protected alleged Ku Klux Klan member from angry mob

Though it is virtually impossible to predict with any degree of accuracy how one would truly react in any situation until when actually faced with the challenge, I daresay not many of us would have done what this courageous soul did.

She certainly is a much better person than I am.

Two reasons I would probably have walked away: fear of being harmed or killed myself, and the knowledge that he probably would not do the same for me were the tables turned. That said, I have NEVER been a supporter of mob action for any reason and don’t think I ever will be.

God bless her and put the grace in our hearts to be more generous in love to each other.

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Keshia Thomas broke  away from a mob to protect a supposed white supremacist in Ann Arbor, Mich.,  when she was a teenager. Thomas and Mark Brunner, the photographer who captured  her courageous actions, recall that day in 1996.

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	Keshia Thomas protects a rally participant from the crowd which chased him and kicked him on 5th Avenue in Ann Arbor, Mich., when he showed up at a KKK rally with a Confederate flag. Thomas said later, "You can't kill a man for his views. Someone has got to break the cycle."

Stephanie Lim,Ann Arbor  News/AP

An 18-year-old Keshia Thomas throws herself onto a supposed Ku Klux Klan  member to protect him from angry protesters in June 1996.

Images of a black teenager leaping into harm’s way to protect an alleged Ku  Klux Klan member from an angry mob have lost none of their impact 17 years  later.

Keshia Thomas spoke  with the BBC about the day when 17 KKK members held a rally in mostly  liberal Ann Arbor, Mich., in June 1996.

Hundreds of locals had arrived to protest their presence, while police with  riot gear and tear gas protected the Klansmen. An 18-year-old Thomas stood with  the National Women’s Rights Organizations Coalition protestors behind a  purpose-built fence, when someone in the crowd noticed a white man with a  Confederate flag T-shirt and an SS tattoo among them.

In the aftermath of the rally, in which seven people were arrested, Thomas' actions are being scrutinized and have been described as gallant by some. 

Andrew Cutraro/AP

In the aftermath of the rally, in  which seven people were arrested, Thomas’ actions are being scrutinized and have  been described as gallant by some.

A woman with a megaphone shouted her accusation, “There’s a Klansman in the  crowd.”

As the man tried to get away, Thomas was among the crowd that gave chase.

The man was attacked when he showed up at a KKK rally with a Confederate flag.

Mark Brunner

The man was attacked when he showed  up at a KKK rally with a Confederate flag.

He started to run when cries of “Kill the Nazi” rang out, but soon fell to  the ground. Protestors began to kick and strike the man with placards.

As the blows continued to rain down, a horrified Thomas threw herself on top  of the man to shield him.

When the crowd noticed a white man with a Confederate flag T-shirt and an SS tattoo among them, they chased him down the street.

Francisco Kjolseth,Ann Arbor  News/AP

When the crowd noticed a white man  with a Confederate flag T-shirt and an SS tattoo among them, they chased him  down the street.

“When people are in a crowd they are more likely to do things they would  never do as an individual. Someone had to step out of the pack and say, ‘This  isn’t right,’ “ she said.

Mark Brunner, the photographer who took the incredible shots, was amazed at  Thomas’ selflessness.

Thomas has not met the man she protected since that day, but has been thanked by his son.

Thomas has not met the man she  protected since that day, but has been thanked by his son.

“She put herself at physical risk to protect someone who, in my opinion,  would not have done the same for her,” he said. “Who does that in this  world?”

Thomas, who had previously experienced violence, says that the man did not  deserve to be attacked.

“Nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea.”

She has never met the man she protected again, but months later a young man  approached her in coffee shop and thanked her. When she asked what he was  thanking her for, his reply was simple.

“That was my dad.”

 

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