For 30 minutes, Edwards tried unsuccessfully to rouse the passersby with racist rhetoric, according to the News Leader. “White man—the blacks are calling you creampuff! Join the Klan,” he said, “and we’ll show you how to fight.” Edwards also announced over his bullhorn that, following the rally, the Klansmen would march to DC to “put down that black power.” There was no mention of how they would do that.
The lack of interest was noted by the News Leader. “By the end of the rally, perhaps 40 people could be counted on the sidewalks within sight of the satin-clad Klansmen, but some of the 40 were waiting for a bus.”
When the rally ended and the “march” began, Edwards and two of the Klansmen, carrying an American flag, started walking south on Route 1, escorted by police. The rest of the Klan members climbed into cars and followed. After a short distance, out of sight of Main Street, Edwards and the others got into the cars and rode the rest of the way to the DC line in Mt. Rainier, the site of their next rally.
At Mt. Rainier, Edwards met his match: two white housewives. According to the Washington Post, during his racist rant over the bullhorn, “’Say that down at 14th and U!’ heckled Mrs. Carroll Carrozza, 31, of Pittsburgh, who was passing by. She and her weekend hostess, Carolyn Banks, 25, of 69 Victor St., NE, then began to sing ‘We Shall Overcome,’ borrowing the bullhorn from Edwards.”
Insults flew between the housewives and the Klan until Mrs. Banks “slapped Edwards on the arm. ‘Assault!’ the Klansman shouted. ‘I want a warrant!’ Then Mrs. Carrozza hit Alton Shelton, who said he was the Imperial Chaplain of the Klan. ‘Hey! She tore my robe,’ Shelton wailed. ‘Arrest her too,’ said Edwards.”
The housewives, along with Mrs. Banks’ 4-year-old son, were taken to the Hyattsville station, booked for disorderly conduct, and released on $100 bond.
Two weeks later, on Aug. 5, Edwards pulled another bizarre stunt, presumably for the attention. Klansman Henry Shelton reported Edwards missing to the Maryland State Police because he “failed to appear at a [KKK] meeting.” According to the News Leader, the U.S. Coast Guard called Howard County Police and “reported that Edwards had gone out in the Chesapeake Bay from Deale the preceding day, and by 7:30 the following morning had failed to return. His vehicle was located at Deale.” The FBI report said he put out in a “16-foot row boat.” Police from Howard and Anne Arundel counties, as well as the Coast Guard, were searching for him. Then, without explanation, on Aug. 8, “Mrs. Helene Edwards reported that her husband had returned safely.”
The Klan and the Beatles
Just prior to embarking on what would be their final U.S. tour, John Lennon’s comments to a British interviewer stoked a firestorm for the group. Lennon spent much time trying to explain and apologizing for saying that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ. In The Beatles Anthology documentary released in 1995, George Harrison recalled, “The repercussions were big, especially in the Bible Belt. In the South, they were having a field day.” According to Rolling Stone magazine, “Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton of the Klan’s Alabama chapter declared the Beatles brainwashed by the Communist party and criticized them for supporting civil rights.” Bonfires fed with Beatles albums and memorabilia were held across the country.
Xavier Edwards saw his chance for maximum exposure. Prior to the Beatles concert at DC (later RFK) Stadium, he gave an on-camera interview to NBC News in front of the stadium. Dressed in a dark Klan robe and wearing sunglasses, Edwards told NBC, “We’re going to demonstrate with different ways and tactics to stop this performance. We’re the only organization that will come out and make a stop to these accusations. This is nothing but blasphemy and we’re gonna try to stop it any terror way we can. We’re known as a terrorist organization. We have ways and means to stop this if this is gonna be the case.” The interviewer asked, “What ways and means?” Edwards replied, “Well, I don’t want to say this but there will be a lot of surprises Monday night when they get here.”
Once again, his threats and boasts amounted to nothing, but he got a major dose of publicity. Edwards and some Klansmen paraded outside the stadium before the concert. Rolling Stone quoted Neil Aspinall, the Beatles road manager, “It turned out to be six guys in white sheets and conical hats walking round with a placard. It didn’t really amount to much.”
The Chaos Continues
The chaos around Edwards continued for the rest of 1966. The FBI was concerned enough that they called him in for an interview in October. Edwards told the FBI agents that the “main objective of the IK [Interstate Klan] is to prevent integration of the white and black races by nonviolent means such as demonstrations and propaganda. … He felt that integration was being pushed by communists and that his organization was against communist and ‘left wing’ groups. His organization, he stated, would cooperate with any ‘right wing’ groups opposing communism and that espoused Americanism. He named the ANP, the Minutemen, and the NSRP.” [The NSRP, or National States Rights Party, was an off-shoot of the Klan that espoused similar racist views.]
And yet, even to the FBI he couldn’t control his boasting and lying. “At the time of the interview, subject [Edwards] furnished information regarding an alleged plan of an unknown member of the UKA to blow up an unspecified Negro church in the Arlington, VA, area, between Oct. 22, 1966 and Nov. 12, 1966. He last furnished information regarding an alleged raid by members of the UKA of North Carolina on an apartment of a member of the Black Muslim or one used by the organization, during which 500 rifles of unknown type were taken. The information was received from members of the IK whom subject refused to name. No information was received indicating either of the two above allegations ever took place or were actually planned.”
In the fall of 1966, the Action Coordinating Committee to End Segregation in the Suburbs (ACCESS) was very active in the DC area. Edwards and the IK almost always showed up at their demonstrations. On Oct 30 at a “fair housing demonstration” in Mount Rainier, as described in the Washington Star, the Klan blocked the sidewalk. ACCESS member William Hobbs “protested that his group was non-violent and wanted no trouble. Edwards held up his fist and said ‘Do you see that? It’s non-violent, too, but I’ll use it.’”