KKK plans rally in Sharpsburg

July 10, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

SHARPSBURG - When the Ku Klux Klan marches and rallies in Sharpsburg on Aug. 28, a nearby church hopes to hold a separate community event.

The Rev. Malcolm Stranathan of Salem United Methodist Church in Keedysville said the event - away from the rally - wouldn't be a counterprotest, but a declaration that the community doesn't share the Klan's views.

"It is just to lift up the solidarity of the community," he said.

A meeting to plan the community event will be held at the church Wednesday at 7 p.m. The greater South Mountain community and all Washington County houses of worship are invited, Stranathan said.


The World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan plan to march and rally in Sharpsburg Aug. 28, ending the Klan's recent silence in Washington County.

The white supremacy organization will march two blocks on South Hall Street starting at 1 p.m., then hold a rally at Lonnie L. Crampton Memorial Park, which will be closed off.

Charles Wagaman, Sharpsburg's zoning administrator, who finalized details with World Knights Imperial Wizard Gordon Young on Wednesday, said the demonstration must end by 5 p.m.

Young, who lives in Hagerstown, said he expects at least 100 people to attend.

A division of the Ku Klux Klan called the Invisible Empire Knights held numerous rallies in Washington and Frederick counties in the 1980s. However, police and government officials have seen little Klan activity in the last several years.

A chapter of another white supremacy group, the National Alliance, surfaced in the Hagerstown area in 2001. The chapter's leader died in a car crash two years later.

Although the World Knights' views might offend many, the group has a First Amendment right to assemble and speak, Wagaman said.

The World Knights wanted to hold a rally in front of Sharpsburg Town Hall in June, but didn't get a permit. The group then applied for a state permit to shut down part of Md. 34 for three hours to hold a parade on Aug. 28.

The Maryland State Highway Administration granted the permit, but only for one hour, and wouldn't close the road for a rally afterward.

Young withdrew his application.

"We know the Klan is controversial, but we treat everybody the same way. ... It's safety that's paramount," SHA spokesman Chuck Gischlar said.

The less attention on the parade and rally, the better, Wagaman said.

"We would just as soon that the public ignore it and not be there and that be their form of protest," he said.

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