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Security in place for Saturday rally at battlefield site

June 05, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

SHARPSBURG

An "overwhelming force" of law enforcement officers from at least four agencies will provide protection for participants at a Ku Klux Klan rally later this week, according to John Howard, superintendent of Antietam National Battlefield.

Despite the demonstration, events planned for Saturday, which is the first day of Artillery Weekend, will go on as scheduled, Howard said.

Officers representing the United States Park Police and National Park Service rangers, Maryland State Police and Washington County Sheriff's Department will work under a multi-agency command responsible for providing security the day of the Klan rally, Howard said.

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The World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan's application to use Mumma Farmstead for a demonstration indicates the group anticipates a turnout of about 100 people, Howard said in April.

During an April interview, the group's commander, Gordon Young, said he invited about 300 people to the event at Mumma Farmstead.

According to the group's permit, the Klan may begin setting up as early as 11:30 a.m. for the rally, which is from 2 to 5 p.m.

Vans will take demonstrators from a parking lot to the rally site and back, and demonstrators will pass metal detectors en route to the rally, Howard said.

Officers will enforce conditions specified by the permit, and if more people show up for the rally than the application indicates, they will be turned away, Howard said. One application for a counter-rally was submitted and then withdrawn, he said last week.

Demonstrators and counter-demonstrators will be kept away from each other, Howard said.

"Any infraction will be dealt with very, very quickly," Howard said.

Howard said he could not specify how many officers would be working at the rally or how much the security coverage would cost.

The officers will begin work well before the rally, and they will remain at the park "as long as they're needed," Howard said.

Depending on the weather, 5,000 to 6,000 people typically visit the battlefield on Artillery Weekend, Howard said. A 5K race also is scheduled for Saturday.

The rally is a distance from the events, and visitors should not be disrupted, Howard said.

"We're as ready as we're going to be, and you know I have full confidence that the officers here will be able to handle the situation, whatever it may need," Howard said.

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