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Coalition's Fall Festival to counter Klan rally

October 10, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

HARPERS FERRY, W.VA. - A planned rally Saturday in Harpers Ferry by the World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan will be countered by an event sponsored by another organization whose members believe it is time to "stand up and say something" about hate and violence spreading across the country.

A group of local churches has been working to launch the creation of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition and the group will sponsor an event at Bolivar Park along Washington Street from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, the same time the KKK will be holding a rally in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Love Your Neighbor Coalition organizers say their event is designed to counter the KKK rally, but they steer away from mentioning the KKK event because they want to focus on the celebration of community that their activity is emphasizing.

Even the title of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition makes no hint of the KKK rally.

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Love Your Neighbor Coalition members are calling their event a Fall Festival, which will offer free activities to the public such as a moon bounce, face painting and fingernail painting for kids, said Alexis Coleman, pastor at Camp Hill-Wesley United Methodist Church and Engle United Methodist Church, both in Harpers Ferry.

Fall Festival organizers also will offer free chili as part of a chili cook-off and are hoping to have three-on-three basketball games and a basketball clinic at the park's basketball court, Coleman said.

The event at the park will be preceded by an ecumenical worship service at noon at Bolivar United Methodist Church, a short distance from the park on Washington Street, Coleman said.

"Really what we want to say is we don't support violence or hatred. There's really no reason for that. These outside groups just can't come in and claim they are supported by the community because they are not," Coleman said.

Not only is the Love Your Neighbor Coalition concerned about actions by the KKK, they also are concerned about other national issues, such as recent school shootings across the country.

"It's just time for the faith community to stand up and say something," Coleman said.

Georgia DuBose, a local priest who is involved in the Fall Festival, said the less said about the KKK the better. DuBose said Fall Festival organizers are not planning to go to Hamilton Street where the KKK is having its rally.

"We just don't want it to be a reaction to negativity," DuBose said of the Fall Festival.

The topic of the KKK rally will be "Black Crimes in White America," and among the issues that are expected to be discussed is the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Niagara Movement in Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in August, said Gordon Young, a Washington County resident and imperial wizard of the World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The Niagara Movement was founded in 1905 by a group of black men led by W.E.B. DuBois, J.R. Clifford and others, and it set the stage for the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

This will be the third time the KKK has held an event in a National Park. The group held an event at Antietam National Battlefield on June 10 and staged a rally at Gettysburg (Pa.) National Military Park on Sept. 2.

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