MAXWELL:  A ridiculous protest at City Hall

4/2/2002 – Printed in the EDITORIAL section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper



Led by Grand Lizard of Florida Burt Colucci (aka Burt Nicosia), the Ku Klux Klowns came to town Saturday. On the other side, led by Omali Yeshitela (aka Joe Waller), the Ufoolrus showed up.

I was there, at City Hall, in a crowd of several hundred. I arrived at 11:30, walked the streets, talked to early-comers and the police and ran into City Council member Jay Lasita. He was unhappy.

Anyway, I laughed a lot, even though the farce cost taxpayers a bundle.

You could spot the Klowns and their sympathizers a mile away. They were white, of course. They arrived on Harleys and in pickups. They were heavily tattooed and had that signature grunge aura. And, yes, some wore T-shirts with wording I cannot repeat here, and others wore Confederate emblems.

One of the funniest things about the Klowns was the get-up Colucci wore. This grown man (well, I think he is grown) wore a green robe and pointy headgear. He looked like bad version of Bozo performing an April Fool’s gag.

You should have heard him talk. Like George Wallace of old, Colucci was not going to be “out-Niggered,” “out-Jewed” or “out-homosexualed.” Yes, suh. That Colucci knew what he was doing. He railed. He gesticulated. He implored. He beseeched. He exhorted. He threatened. He cajoled. He excoriated. He prognosticated.

He was marvelous, as far as Klowns go.

He drove Yeshitela and his minions crazy. They shouted. They stomped the hot pavement. They cussed. They bitched and moaned. They spat. They threw plastic bottles. They paced. They pounded the railings. Some even cried.

In all, Colucci was good, a masterful race baiter, a magician who selected the right repertoire of mean tricks. Other Klownsmen also spoke. They were funny, too.

Ufoolrus’ Chairman Yeshitela also has a great stand-up act, as good or better than his rival’s.

Wearing a signature black T-shirt, Yeshitela strutted. His inner circle of tough bloods wore black fatigues (in that heat!), berets, boots and scary faces. They also made me laugh a lot.

Anyway, Yeshitela orated about “African people.” I kept looking around the crowd for all these Africans, but I saw only brothers and sisters from the hood. He went on about “economic development.” All the while, I was trying to figure what economic development had to do with a sick little out-of-town white man in a green gown and pointy hat.

But there he was, that Yeshitela, bellowing into a bullhorn. You should have seen him. He pumped his fists in the air and waved his arms. His eyes bulged out of his head, and veins popped out in his neck. At one point, I got real scared. I thought the brother was going to swoon. Yo! It was hot out there.

Like Colucci, Yeshitela was good. He had the crowd going. People shouted, waved and applauded, which energized the Ufoolru chairman. I mean, the guy could not shut up. I always have suspected that he is mesmerized by the sound of his own voice.

Well, things were going along pretty much okay until this Klown supporter, Douglas Steltenkemp, (I love that name) had had enough of Yeshitela’s shucking and jiving. Steltenkemp started taunting the crowd, mostly blacks, with racist insults.

He was good _ so good, in fact, that Kevin Benjamin, a brother, confronted him. Cornered, Steltenkemp punched Benjamin. The two went at it, causing the crowd to surge over a police barrier. Both were arrested.

I stood out of harm’s way and observed the scene. For the first time, I realized I was watching a bunch of brats acting out in a giant sandbox.

I realized, too, that I was attending a non-event. What had brought these pro-Klown and anti-Klown sides together in front of City Hall? Nothing. The Klowns had simply announced that they wanted to speak on the steps of City Hall. The Ufoolrus decided they would protest.

That was it. Nothing more. A non-event. The problem, of course, was that this non-event could have turned lethal. If the police had not been there in large numbers, I am certain someone would have been seriously injured or killed.

Looking around the crowd, I saw many children, some infants in strollers. Who are these fools who would endanger the lives of their children by bringing them to this potentially violent non-event?

The truth is, no one except the police and a handful of journalists should have attended this thing. The Klowns have nothing relevant to say, except to their brothers in nuttiness _ the Ufoolrus _ who need doses of white bile to keep them regular.