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Events planned to counter KKK rally

May 15, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Amid the destruction of post-war Bosnia, one local man said he witnessed firsthand the awful consequences of intolerance.

For George Rae, the experience of seeing the shattered former Yugoslavia brought home "a strong repugnance" for hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

"The one thing I took from that - the one thing out of many things - was the strong desire that we never see that type of thing here," said Rae, of Hagerstown, a member of Salem United Methodist Church of Keedysville who visited Bosnia as part of a church mission several years ago.

Activities celebrating the area's diversity are being planned to counter a World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan rally, said Malcolm Stranathan, the pastor at Rae's church. More than 90 individuals and groups, including churches and civic organizations, have expressed interest in helping, Stranathan said.

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Community members who oppose the Klan should not simply ignore its message, he said.

"The reason we do respond is because part of the church's role is not to remain complacent in the face of ... for the lack of a better word, things that are evil," Stranathan said.

The World Knights plan to assemble at Mumma Farmstead June 10. Setup for the rally, which is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m., can begin as early as 11:30 a.m. According to a permit issued to the group, the World Knights have a constitutional right to use the battlefield.

While they said they see no benefit in shouting down the Klan, Stranathan and Rae said the community should come together against hate.

The alternative events will begin with an interfaith ecumenical service at 9 a.m. at Dunker Church, Stranathan said. Community, civic and religious groups will offer displays, information and activities from 1 to 5 p.m. at Taylor Park in Keedysville, and Stranathan said the day's events might also include a car show or concerts.

Petra Friedrich, of Keedysville, said she is planning an evening talent show for area youth. She said Sunday that she wants young people to realize that despite their differences, people of many cultures can get along.

Talent show participants can demonstrate any special skill, including baton twirling, acting, dancing or craft abilities, Friedrich said. She said she especially would like to see performances representing different cultural backgrounds.

"I think it's a good way to introduce the young people to other cultures, and that they don't see them as outsiders, that they (realize) that they do have to live together," Friedrich said.

When the Klan rallied in Sharpsburg two years ago, many more people participated in counteractive events organized by Stranathan than in the march, according to reports published in The Herald-Mail.

This time, Stranathan said he hopes to keep the momentum going. With the contacts he has established with groups in the area, Stranathan said he would like to see the creation of a nonprofit agency that would promote tolerance year-round.

"I think this is something that needs to be very evident and active in this community," Stranathan said.

The Klan attracts frightened and frustrated people, Rae said. By coming to the alternative events, he said they would witness a more powerful message.

"I would say come and join us at the alternative events and see how much stronger the community is when it celebrates diversity," he said.

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