On June 22, 1996, a group of 17 Ku Klux Klan members met in the city hall of Ann Arbor, Michigan –fully clothed in hate robes. With intention to hold a rally, they were met with an angry group of 300 protestors who wanted them to know they weren’t welcome. In the midst of the protestors, majority black, someone spotted a middle-aged white man wearing a Confederate t-shirt. Through his clothes and “SS” tattoo, it appeared that he was a white supremacist.
Once his presence was made known, a crowd of angry people chased him down and began to beat him in the streets, one yelling “Kill the Nazi”. While there were policeman with gas masks and riot gear protecting the Klansman who wore full garb on the other side of the fence, there was no one protecting the man who chose to stand on the same side as the protestors to observe, while he wore a symbol that represented racism on his shirt.
After the man was on the ground, being kicked and beaten with wooden sticks, 18-year-old Keshia Thomas, a black woman, threw her body over his and protected the man from the beating.
When asked why she helped him, Keshia Thomas said “…violence is violence – nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea.” Thomas admits to being a victim of violence and a spiritual person who believed that beating the man was wrong.
Keshia Thomas never knew that man she saved, nor did she seek him out for thanks. However, a few months later, the man’s son thanked her in a coffee shop.
The images of the incident will live on, capturing the bravery of a high school girl who saved someone who may not have saved her in the same situation.