Klan Group Marches in Capital; 2,000 Protest
About two dozen Ku Klux Klan members paraded through the nation’s capital shouting “white rights for America” as counterdemonstrators several blocks away hurled rocks, bottles and bricks at police, injuring at least seven officers.
The police phalanx succeeded in keeping the members of Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who traveled here from North Carolina, isolated from about 2,000 counterdemonstrators. The klan, dressed in hooded robes of various colors, marched from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol.
“We’re not here to be harassed or intimidated,” klan leader Virgil Griffin, who wore a purple robe, warned his group before the march. “Ignore the protesters. Let them do the cursing. You act like ladies and gentlemen.”
After arriving safely at the west front of the Capitol, klan members rallied briefly on the steps with harsh words for blacks, Jews, communists, members of Congress and the protesters, who earlier had vowed to stop the klan from marching.
“It ain’t the klan that has the hatred,” the Rev. Charles Beasley, a klan grand dragon, shouted through a bullhorn. “As we walked down the street, you could see where the riots are,” he said, adding a racial slur to designate those he considered unruly.
Klan members praised President Bush’s recent veto of civil rights legislation and verbally attacked members of Congress who attempted to override the veto.
“We should be proud today that the President vetoed the most civil rights (sic) bill that ever was,” one said.
The march and rally ended several days of legal wrangling over the klan’s right to march the full distance from the monument to the Capitol. The klan, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, had filed suit seeking a permit for the march, which the District of Columbia government had refused to approve.
Local police had argued that they could not guarantee the safety of Griffin and his followers. Nevertheless, early Sunday morning, a federal judge ordered the permit granted.
The counterdemonstrators, who never got close to the klansmen, rushed the more than 5,000 Metropolitan, U.S. Park and Capitol police. Although police were armed with tear gas grenades, they did not use them.
District police said that they arrested 40 people and charged them with disorderly conduct or assaulting a police officer. At least one officer was seriously hurt when she was struck in the neck by a large rock, police said.
The counterdemonstrators said that they came to show their outrage at what the klan represents.
“They’re spreading hatred and evil and it’s time for all this to stop,” said Toyia Johnson, a paralegal who lives in Washington. “We’re living in the ‘90s now. We’ve all got to live together. As long as the klan keeps on, it’ll spread from generation to generation. It’s got to stop.”
Feelings against the klan are riding particularly high here in the wake of allegations from a Nevada state prison inmate that the klan tortured and killed 20 blacks in the Washington area during the 1960s. The inmate, convicted murderer Edward A. See, said he saw the killings, in which victims were chosen randomly and buried in northern Virginia. Federal and state officials are investigating.
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