Klan gets OK for rally at Antietam

April 26, 2006|by KAREN HANNA


The World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has received permission to rally at Antietam National Battlefield in June, park superintendent John Howard said Tuesday.

The U.S. Constitution is the basis for the permit that allows the white supremacist group to assemble June 10 at Mumma Farmstead, according to a copy of the document provided by the group's commander, Gordon Young.

"We have a requirement to evaluate applications that are submitted under the First Amendment of the Constitution," Howard said.

According to Howard, the group's application indicates about 100 people will turn out for the rally. The park has identified separate areas where media and protesters would assemble, if necessary, and several law enforcement agencies will be responsible for maintaining order, Howard said.


"We're not anticipating any problems, but we have to have resources available that do two things: First, make sure that Mr. Young and his group can exercise their Constitutional rights, and two, protect all involved," Howard said.

The National Park Service Park Police, Maryland State Police and Washington County Sheriff's Department would provide security at the event, Howard said. The agencies will meet over the next two weeks to discuss preparations and staffing for the event, he said.

Young said he invited about 300 people, including members of the National Socialist Movement, Aryan Nation, Keystone Skinheads, Maryland Skinheads and Empire Knights.

About 100 police kept order at a World Knights rally in Sharpsburg two years ago, The Herald-Mail reported at the time. Only about 10 supporters of the Knights showed up.

Young said Tuesday that other supporters would have been at the Sharpsburg rally, but they missed a bus.

The Knights canceled a rally in Boonsboro last year.

Howard said Young's permit application requested security for the group.

"He expressed concern for the safety of his group," Howard said.

In his 11 years at the park, Howard said he knows of no other instance in which the park has processed a First Amendment permit, which allows an individual or group to use the park to exercise Constitutional freedoms such as free speech.

"It would be very difficult to find a reason why a First Amendment permit would be denied," Howard said.

Howard said he hopes people opposed to the KKK will choose not to rally at the park, but he said anyone filing a counter-demonstration permit application would be given the same consideration as Young's group.

Protesters would assemble in a separate area within sight of the KKK, and the groups would be able to communicate, Howard said.

"Does that mean they're going to face one another? Oh no. They would be separated by a safe distance, if such an event were to happen," Howard said.

The Herald-Mail Articles