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KKK flag hanging under investigation in Grosse Pointe Park

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

An incident of a Grosse Pointe Park resident hanging a KKK flag that faced his Black neighbor's home has sparked outrage and a call to action by Metro Detroiters offended by the man's actions.

The red, black and white flag was hung in a large side window where it faced only one neighbor, an African-American woman. Grosse Pointe Park police visited the White neighbor's home Tuesday  afternoon after receiving a complaint.

A Ku Klux Klan flag was hanging in the home of a White Grosse Pointe Park next-door neighbor, so JeDonna Matthews Dinges said she took a photo to document a display that shocked and angered her.

"My first reaction was shock and then it was a combination of shock and anger," said 57-year-old JeDonna Matthews Dinges, a longtime resident of Grosse Pointe Park. "The KKK flag is a symbol of hatred, violence and intimidation against Black and Brown people."

Dinges said the incident "was to send a clear message to me that you aren't welcome here ... and that I'm a racist, ugly person and I'm letting you know that I want to intimidate you, scare you and you aren't welcome here." Dinges wouldn't identify her neighbor.

The incident is still under investigation, Grosse Pointe Park City Manager Nick Sizeland said.

"The officers made contact with a resident of the home displaying the flag and the resident agreed to remove the flag from the window due to its offensive nature," Sizeland said.

"We are committed to ensuring the safety and security of all residents in this community, and we take every matter brought before our department seriously," he added. "The department is reviewing the facts and its records to ensure its officers have consistently acted appropriately and in accordance with policy. If any legal action is allowed or warranted under the law, the city will take action."

The incident has prompted a Sunday 2 p.m. rally in support of the businesswoman planned near Dinges' Wayburn Street home, according to organizers.

The neighbor couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Dinges said Friday she has had a "groundswell" of support from other residents in the city, including ones who wanted to come sit with her at home to others who have offered to put her up in their residences.

"I'm overwhelmed," she said. "I've never seen anything like it ... the groundswell of love and support."

Dinges said the flag incident follows the discovery last month of a gas can full of gasoline in her covered trash bin next to her home last month. Both Dinges and the Grosse Pointe Park branch of the NAACP said local police officers brushed the incident off.

Dinges said officers did not take fingerprints off the gas can or canvas the neighborhood looking for evidence.

Meanwhile, NAACP officials called the flag waving an attempt at "ethnic intimidation." 

"The fact that a KKK flag was displayed at all is deeply disturbing," NAACP officials in Grosse Pointe Park said on their Facebook page. "Grosse Pointe Park is arguably the most diverse in the Grosse Pointes and yet someone felt comfortable enough to wave their racism in their neighbor's face with the oldest symbol of white, domestic terrorism perpetuated on Black Americans for over a hundred years.  This signals a deeper challenge we must all overcome in our community."

Dinges said she call the FBI and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office to report the flag incident.  She said if the neighbor has committed a crime, he should be prosecuted.

"If he's broken the law, ... I want him prosecuted," Dinges said. "I would like for the law to work as it should. I want justice."

Dinges said her neighbor and his extended family have lived in the neighborhood a long time. She said she intends to stay put: "I'm not going anywhere. I'm not going to pick up and move because I have this racist next door to me." 

The outpouring of support for the Dinges' family and "overwhelming condemnation against the hate has been reassuring, said Greg Bowens, a journalist and African-American Grosse Pointe Park resident.

"It's not Black versus White like that KKK flag would have you believe," Bowens added. "It's people versus racism and all of us working for a better future. Racism is real but so is the determination we have as a society to end it."

bwilliams@detroitnews.com