Klan leader from Wisconsin: "We've got to go to St. Paul'

Pioneer Press/August 24, 2001
By Todd Nelson

He has a dog, a girlfriend of 10 years and he volunteers with his hometown fire department in Mercer, Wis. And he's second-in-command of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Self-proclaimed white racist Michael McQueeney says he is staging a rally in St. Paul because he wanted to come to the center of the country to address other whites. He said he wanted to use the occasion to respond to riots that broke out in Cincinnati after a white police officer shot and killed a black man in April.

"When that happened, I said, "We've got to go to St. Paul,' " McQueeney said. "It's right in the heart of the country. That's why we proposed to do it there. We should have had the rally a month after the riots, but I've been so busy traveling."

McQueeney, a grand dragon with the Klan, also is a major with the Aryan Nations, another white supremacist group that will join the Klansmen at the state Capitol, along with members of the National Socialist Movement. McQueeney said he anticipated having 50 speakers at Saturday's rally and 250 to 500 supporters who will come to hear them.

In his comments and on his Web site, McQueeney dispenses hate-filled rhetoric and unabashed racism without apology. He decries whites mixing with other races and rails against traditional Klan targets such as Jews, blacks and other racial minority groups. Even his voice-mail message ends with the slogan, "White pride, worldwide."

Catholics, also a traditional focus of Klan hate, are no longer targeted by his group, said McQueeney, who said he was raised a Catholic. "We're the new Klan," he said. "A lot of people don't care what you are as long as you're white and sticking up for the white race."

One Klan tradition McQueeney will not observe in St. Paul is wearing his full hood. A rarely used state law prohibits people from wearing masks in public to conceal their identity in most circumstances, meaning no full hoods for those attending the rally. "I'm going to wear a hood with my robe, but I'm going to have my face undone," McQueeney said.

The law was originally intended as leverage against the Klan or other masked mobs, according to a book about the legislative session of 1923, when it was enacted. It was championed to passage by Myrtle Cain, one of Minnesota's first female representatives, and attracted national attention. The statute makes concealing identity a misdemeanor offense, but the law provides exceptions for wearing masks during religious ceremonies, to protect someone from the weather or for entertainment purposes, such as on Halloween.

A native of Chicago, McQueeney, 45, lived there until he moved to Wisconsin six years ago. This summer, the Klan has made headlines there by committing to clean up a stretch of highway that the Klan adopted under a state program.

"We went out there with our robes and garbage cans," McQueeney said. In addition to traveling to Klan and other supremacist group rallies, McQueeney handles recruiting and promotions for the Klan. At home in northern Wisconsin, he spends time with his girlfriend and their pet dog and answers the occasional fire call.

"I have a nice family and a good mother that supports me," McQueeney said. "I have a lot of friends in this town and community. I've got some critics here and there but they don't say anything to me."

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