KKK marches in county

August 29, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

SHARPSBURG - Fewer than a dozen people marched in support of the Ku Klux Klan on Saturday in Sharpsburg, although the group was flanked by dozens of police and media representatives as the parade worked its way through town.

Just after 1 p.m., two Klansmen in white hoods and robes carrying the KKK's flag and the Confederate Flag were followed by the rest of the parade group.

A group of skinheads gathered nearby at one corner of Main and Hall streets, while about 100 bystanders watched at the other corners of the intersection.


Most members of the public who were not marching were confined to areas cordoned off by police at the intersection of Main and Hall streets.

The parade was under heavy police watch and was confined to two blocks of Hall Street between Main and High streets.

While the KKK had planned a rally at Lonnie L. Crampton Memorial Park in Sharpsburg, those plans were scrapped because police did not allow members of the public into the park.

When the parade was complete, some of the marchers boarded a bus. Two men in the parade spoke to the media.

Gordon Young, imperial wizard for the World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, denounced the way the parade was handled by police and called for people to join their ranks. Young, 38, of Hagerstown, organized the event.

Young, who earlier had predicted 100 marchers would participate, told reporters he believed it was "Jew-run government" that is the "new enemy" and was controlling their march Saturday.

Young also said it is Jews who were allowing immigration of Mexicans and who were giving "free rides" to blacks.

Young did not name any specific people in government who spoiled the parade. Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades, who was the top police officer in control of parade security, said later that he is Catholic.

Joseph Bednarsky Jr., 35, of New Jersey, was representing the New Jersey White Nationalists Forum and marched with the Klan on Saturday. He said he would be contacting the American Civil Liberties Union and other lawyers because of the way the parade was handled.

"This isn't a public rally. ... If we would have known this was going to happen, we wouldn't have come," Bednarsky said.

Heavy police presence

Police had control over several streets in Sharpsburg, including High and Hall streets.

Mades said the heavy control was necessary to keep any violence from erupting.

While the Constitution allows freedom of speech, Mades said, "where does it say that groups of people ... can start to get disorderly? ... The easy thing for us to do is control it."

Mades said police had learned that skinheads and Aryan Nation members were planning to join the parade.

"Those groups are violent," he said.

The Sheriff's Office was bolstered by officers from several other agencies. Mades said about 100 police officers were present Saturday.

Tactical officers from the Sheriff's Office, Maryland State Police and Hagerstown City Police were joined by riot control-equipped officers from around the state. Horse-mounted officers from the Washington, D.C., area were deputized in Washington County on Saturday morning.

Mades said the planning for Saturday began three months ago and was aided by members of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Justice Department.

Mades said the total cost of security could reach between $60,000 and $70,000 across the agencies that provided help. Mades said the Sheriff's Office may be looking at a bill of between $20,000 and $25,000 in event-related costs, including overtime and equipment rentals.

Mades said his office will review Saturday's efforts as well as compile a cost analysis.

Mixed views on rally

Residents of Sharpsburg and nearby areas had mixed reactions to the parade and the police.

Brenda Morrison, 47, lives on Main Street. Before the parade began, she said, "I thought it was good that there was so much police presence."

"I'm all for freedom of speech and expression ... but this group has been historically a terrorist type organization," Morrison said. "It's good that we're protected from them."

Dallas Jamison, 71, of Sharpsburg was seated on a porch along the parade route, and before the parade began he was questioning the expense of the security.

"I think it's a waste of the taxpayers' money," Jamison said. "Who's gonna cause trouble? Certainly not the Ku Klux Klan when they're trying to entice people into their organization."

During the parade, a woman crumpled a piece of paper and tossed it into the street, screaming at the parade.

That woman was Tracey DeGrange, 35. She lives on Hall Street and said her 13-year-old son was handed literature by one of the marchers.

DeGrange said if she wanted her son to read something, she would do it herself, not "some psycho goofball about something that's totally asinine. ... They're not gonna pass it on to my child."

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