Aldermen from Harrison, Arkansas have asked for an apology from the city of Branson due to a comment made at a June 23 Branson Board of Aldermen meeting.
The comment they’re referring to stemmed from a report given by Branson City Administrator Stan Dobbins condemning the police tactics used that led to George Floyd’s death in Minnesota and his personal time training police officers in defensive tactics. He then, defending Branson against accusations of racism, said that “if you want to find the Ku Klux Klan, you can go to Harrison, Arkansas.”
Dobbin’s full statement from the meeting is below. The woman he refers to is a person who, in a video that has gone viral, invoked the KKK during a protest of a Confederate flag store on June 20.
“I’m going to say something that some of you won’t be happy to hear, but I’m going to say it anyway. That woman was appalling in her behavior we were talking about. I’ve been a police officer for 40 years. I’ve arrested members of the Ku Klux Klan, and I’m not going to tell you I’m sorry that I did it,” said Dobbins. “But, I’m going to tell you this: My son-in-law’s black. He comes to this town all the time and never has a problem. Not one. So it makes me wonder where all the mouths and voices come from that say, ‘oh my God, the city of Branson has a problem,’ when you can drive 30 miles down the road and be in Harrison, Arkansas. If you want to find the Ku Klux Klan, you go to Harrison, Arkansas.
“I am proud of this community, I am proud of the people that live here, I am proud of everything that we do and every one of the members of this police department does everyday to protect everyone’s right to speak. I am perturbed and angry with what occurred with George Floyd. That man should have never died. It was a tragedy. I have been a police officer for 40 years. I trained officers in the police department academy in defensive tactics. There is no defensive tactics ever taught on the face of the earth that I’m aware of that tells you to put a knee on a man’s neck and hold him there. That’s wrong. We address the problem, we do not become the problem. We address problems by communicating with one another.”
In an interview with Harrison, Arkansas’ Mayor Jerry Jackson, he said it is a myth that the KKK is in Harrison.
“I have lived here 40 years in Harrison. I’ve been extremely active. I’ve been a real estate agent, so I’ve been up and down the backroads of Boone County,” said Jackson. “I feel like I know most all people, and I have never known a Klans person or never known a person that knew a Klans person. The fact that the KKK here, is here, one of the biggest myths that exists.
“I spoke with (Branson Mayor) Edd Akers yesterday (June 25) and he was a true gentleman, I really appreciated his attitude.”
The city of Branson and Jackson provided the following email containing an apology from Dobbins.
I was contacted by Mayor Akers yesterday in regard to a statement that I made during our Board meeting on the 23rd of this month. I cannot and will not apologize for standing against racism and the beliefs of the KKK.
I would however, like to apologize to you and your entire community for doing the same thing that is being done to us. That is, using a broad brush when addressing a specific problem. That is as wrong there as it is here. I know the City of Harrison has fought very hard to overcome the reputation that it has fought of being a racist community, the white supremacist billboards, and the KKK marches that were held there. I do not wish to make you have to fight those battles again. I am also very aware that it is not right to blame the entire community for the actions of a few and that was never my intent as that is the same thing we are battling. I also know that you have another problem that we deal with as well. That being if you live within twenty miles of our town you live here. I believe Thomas Robb, unfortunately, having a Harrison address adds to your problems.
I should have directed the group outside of your actual City to the proper location. My statement was not meant to shed a bad light on your community and for that I do apologize. I know if we all work together we can overcome hate, racism, and bigotry.
If you would relay this statement to your Board and community I would be in your debt.
The Thomas Robb mentioned in the letter is a former KKK leader. A 2015 story in the Springfield News-Leader revealed that Robb’s son is a co-owner of the Confederate flag store, Dixie Outfitters, that was being protested June 21 when the viral video was filmed.
Dobbins’ email was then followed by an email from Jackson “wholeheartedly” accepting Dobbin’s apology on behalf of the council and the community.
As you probably realize, Harrison, Arkansas has been the focus of the untrue message about being the home of the KKK for many years, so I hope you understand the frustration when we hear such comments. I have lived in Harrison for over 40 years, and I feel like I know many people and have never known anyone other than the Robb family that is or ever has been affiliated with the KKK. Actually, I don’t even know anyone who knows anyone that has ever been affiliated with the KKK.
Yesterday, when speaking with Mayor Akers, I felt confident that this would be the end of this matter but was surprised when hearing you declined to apologize. However, I also understand what you are going through right now with the protests in Branson, so I was pleased to receive your letter of apology this morning. Harrison and Branson have had a great relationship, one we look forward to continuing and expanding in the future. As mayor, I’m sure I speak for the council and the community that we wholeheartedly accept your apology.
Jerry Jackson, Mayor