A Klan-Panther Showdown in Texas?

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In a macabre throwback to the '60s, a small southern town on Saturday becomes a flash point for America's unfinished conversation on race. The Ku Klux Klan is staging a rally outside the courthouse in Jasper, Texas, but the Klansmen face the unfamiliar experience of having their activities monitored by shotgun-wielding members of the New Black Panther Party, who plan to protect the town's black citizens. The Klan event is ostensibly intended to condemn the brutal murder of James Byrd, Jr. for which three men with white supremacist links have been charged.

"We're asking everybody to please don't come to Jasper Saturday," said County Sheriff Billy Rowles. "Let us handle it." He has good reason to be worried. Wednesday's autopsy report on Byrd's killing will have done little to cool passions in the town: It confirmed that Byrd's head had been ripped from his body after he was dragged behind a vehicle, which had also broken his back, legs, arms and collarbone and ground his elbows, kneecaps, lower back and both heels to the bone.