Claims that Birmingham, Alabama, shut down entirely in response to threats from the Ku Klux Klan went viral over the weekend, with many lamenting the lack of news coverage directed toward it.
However, the tweets on the topic don’t accurately represent what happened. While there were threats made toward the mayor and the citizens of Birmingham, the city never went into a shut down.
Did Birmingham shut down in response to threats from the KKK?
The mayor of Birmingham confirmed threats were made to him and Birmingham’s citizens after the city took down a Confederate statue. Some businesses closed early on June 4 in response, but the city itself didn’t enact a shutdown.
The city had a 7 p.m. curfew, but that was the same curfew set days prior in response to protests taking place in the city.
WHAT WE FOUND
A Confederate monument in Birmingham was removed by the city in early June following an attempt by protesters to do it themselves, according to a number of local news outlets.
Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin confirmed in the news video linked above and on the TODAY show that he was threatened, as were the city’s protesters and first responders. Both the local news report and the TODAY show interview were on June 3.
A man was arrested for making terrorist threats later that same day. No other arrests were made related to this incident.
The next day, June 4, a rumor that the Ku Klux Klan was coming to Birmingham to kill black people in the city spread. Sheila Tyson, the County Commissioner of Birmingham’s Jefferson County, said on Facebook the rumor was not true. “I just got off the phone with the office of Mayor Woodfin. They are confirming that reports of the KKK coming to Birmingham, AL are not true,” she said.
The city itself put out a press release confirming it was not shutting down the city. “We have received many inquiries that the city is shutting down today due to potential unrest. This is not true. To be clear, the city has not announced a shut down nor does it plan to announce a shut down today,” the press release said.
Nonetheless, local news outlets reported various businesses and the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) closed early on June 4 out of an “abundance of caution.”
The city of Birmingham did have a 7 p.m. curfew that night, but that was unrelated to the rumors. The curfew began on June 1, before the monument was taken down and before there were rumors of the KKK threatening the city, in response to protests in the city.