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They plan to counter the Klan

Dozens decide to hold positive events in three towns

Dozens decide to hold positive events in three towns

July 15, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

KEEDYSVILLE

andrews@herald-mail.com

A community movement to overshadow hate with tolerance was launched Wednesday, six weeks before the Ku Klux Klan is scheduled to march in Sharpsburg.

About 50 people gathered at Salem United Methodist Church of Keedysville to talk about events and attitudes that can counter the Klan's public demonstration on Aug. 28.

The Rev. Malcolm Stranathan of Salem United stressed that the community should not confront the Klan head-on.

Instead, people at the meeting decided to hold three peaceful, positive events in Sharpsburg, Keedysville and Shepherdstown, W.Va.

They debated a slogan - "Love, Not Hate" had support, but so did "Tolerance and Unity" - for signs to hang everywhere possible.

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They formed committees to plan food and publicity.

They heard from a U.S. Department of Justice representative that by banding together and expressing their values, they are doing the right thing.

"The Klan survives when people do nothing," said Timothy Johnson, a senior conciliation specialist with the Department of Justice. "If you just stay home, that's not good enough. You have to do something. My suggestion is to do something positive."

Stranathan said the Southern Poverty Law Center - which tracks and fights hate groups from its headquarters in Montgomery, Ala. - contacted him with advice.

Tolerance.org, an SPLC project, offered "10 Ways to Fight Hate," such as holding a unity parade or fixing up a local house, he said.

The World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan plan to march on South Hall Street in Sharpsburg on Aug. 28 at 1 p.m., then hold a rally at Lonnie L. Crampton Memorial Park, which will be closed off.

Gordon Young of Hagerstown, the World Knights' imperial wizard, has said that members will speak out against gay marriage, affirmative action and bans on prayer in school, among other topics. He predicted that 100 people will take part.

Stranathan told Wednesday's planning group that staying away from the rally will prevent possible tension and arrests.

Instead, the group is working on an event at the Maryland monument at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg.

A second event is scheduled to coincide with the Ruritan festival already planned for Taylor Park in Keedysville.

A third event would be in Shepherdstown.

Stranathan said it's important to have activities appealing to young people, especially young men who are "impressionable" and who might get caught up in the Klan's message.

People at the meeting came up with a slew of other suggestions, such as inviting professional athletes or popular musicians to attend the peaceful events.

The group expects to apply for a grant of up to $2,000 from the Southern Poverty Law Center to help cover the cost of the events.

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