Almost a year after the fatal Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a former KKK member is now condemning the hate group, claiming that he has since had a change of heart.
Ken Parker, a former KKK Grand Dragon who attended last year’s rally, claims that his views and beliefs have changed dramatically in the last year. According to Park, he felt compelled to attend last year’s Charlottesville rally to help protect and defend his race.
Referring to the rally’s purpose and its organization, Parker told NBC News, “It was thinly veiled [as an effort] to save our monuments, to save our heritage. But we knew when we went in there that it was gonna turn into a racially heated situation, and it wasn’t gonna work out good for either side.”
On the day of the rally, Parker and his group were declared an unlawful assembly and walked back to the parking garage to regroup, where they eventually met documentary filmmaker Deeyah Khan, who was there to film part of her documentary about hate groups titled White Right: Meeting the Enemy.
Park says he still remembers Khan’s kindness, recalling that she tried to make sure he was okay when he was suffering from heat exhaustion. “She was completely respectful to me and my fiancee the whole time,” Parker said. “And so that kind of got me thinking: She’s a really nice lady. Just because she’s got darker skin and believes in a different god than the god I believe in, why am I hating these people?”
Months later, Parker and his girlfriend approached one of their African-American neighbors, Pastor William McKinnon III, who was hosting a cookout outside of his apartment building at the time. Recounting the moment, McKinnon said, “They sat down and she said they had some questions for me, and I just asked them what were some of the questions that they had.”
After talking for some time, McKinnon invited Parker to his church’s Easter service, where Parker stood up and testified before the entire congregation, most of whom were black. “I said I was a Grand Dragon of the KKK, and then the Klan wasn’t hateful enough for me, so I decided to become a Nazi — and a lot of them, their jaws about hit the floor and their eyes got real big. But after the service,” Parker said, “not a single one of them had anything negative to say. They’re all coming up and hugging me and shaking my hand, you know, building me up instead of tearing me down.”
Now, nearly a year later, Parker is attempting to reform himself. Aside from denouncing his former affiliation with the KKK and neo-Nazi movement, Parker also started getting his swastika and confederate flag tattoos removed from his skin, a process which will take months to complete. “I wanna say I’m sorry. I do apologize,” Parker said. “I know I’ve spread hate and discontent through this city immensely — probably made little kids scared to sleep in their own beds in their own neighborhoods.”
“You can definitely get out of this movement,” Parker continued. “I mean, I was into that so much — it was my life, for six years. I never thought I would get out. Get out. You’re throwing your life away.”