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Masked marchers carrying white supremacist symbols in downtown Paducah draw concerns

A group of masked individuals carrying white supremacist and Confederate symbols march near the McCracken County Courthouse in Paducah on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.
Courtesy of Shulorn Hollowell Jeter
/
Facebook
A group of masked individuals carrying white supremacist and Confederate symbols march near the McCracken County Courthouse in Paducah on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.

A group of at least 20 masked individuals took to the streets in downtown Paducah Sunday, many of them carrying Confederate or white supremacy-related symbols.

Videos and still images posted by community members on social media show the group, all of which were dressed in khakis, dark blue shirts and white face coverings, marching single-file near the McCracken County Courthouse around midday.

Some of the flags carried by the individuals were associated with Patriot Front, which the Anti-Defamation League has identified as one of the “most visible white supremacist groups” in the country and as being responsible for the “vast majority of white supremacist propaganda distributed in the United States.”

A group of people wearing white face masks and carrying white supremacist and Confederate symbols march in Paducah on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.
Courtesy of Raynarldo Henderson
A group of people wearing white face masks and carrying white supremacist and Confederate symbols march in Paducah on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024.

Raynarldo Henderson, a pastor at Washington Street Baptist Church and a Paducah City Commissioner, said he was outside greeting his congregation when the group walked by.

“It's very unsettling … to think that in 2024, that people would gather and begin to march and have white coverings over their heads or draped across their faces,” Henderson said. “It takes you way back and it's disappointing.”

Henderson said seeing the group was particularly shocking on the last Sunday of Black History Month.

“I think that it was just so inappropriate to see this during a time when we're just coming out of worship, but during a time when there are people downtown and not to be afraid to be seen … but they were afraid to show their faces,” he said.

Paducah Mayor George Bray said that the group’s activity on Sunday was concerning but that he believed it was protected under First Amendment rights.

“For a group of people to be promoting white supremacy in downtown Paducah is damn disappointing to me, but I can’t honestly say whether or not they violated any laws,” he said.

Local law enforcement officials say no disturbances or vandalism has been reported.

J.W. Cleary, president of the Paducah-McCracken County NAACP, called for the community to come together “to unite against racism and bigotry” after learning of the march.

“The group marching with Confederate and Patriot Front flags represents ideologies rooted in white supremacy and division, seeking to sow seeds of discord in our community. Despite their attempts to hide behind face coverings, their message of hate is clear and unacceptable,” he said in a statement. “Let us view this disheartening event as a rallying cry to intensify our efforts in combating racism and discrimination.”

A video circulating on X later documented the group outside of Paducah City Hall, where they used a megaphone to broadcast anti-trans rhetoric.

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Derek Operle