Ku Klux Klan Rallies in New York Amid Protests
After days of legal maneuvering about their rights to rally, Ku Klux Klan members stood silently inside a pen fashioned from police barricades Saturday and faced the jeers of thousands of protesters.
Among the protesters were several people who had argued for the Klan’s right to hold its rally. Sixteen Klan members gathered outside a courthouse in lower Manhattan.
Police reported seven people arrested, all counterdemonstrators, on a variety of allegations. One man was accused of assaulting a Klansman just before the rally. He and two other men posed as Klan members to infiltrate the group.
“Death to the Klan!” shouted one of the trio as police led them off. The other two men faced charges of disorderly conduct.
James Sheeley of the New York and New Jersey KKK suffered a scrape on his cheek in the scuffle.
Denied a city permit to use a sound system, the Klan stood silently inside the pen, wearing Klan robes and hoods but not face masks, surrounded by police officers in riot helmets. The Klan had decided to go ahead with its rally, despite a ruling Friday by a federal appeals court that the city could refuse to permit the event if participants insisted on wearing masks.
The Klan members--including two women--were joined by two skinheads, one sporting a “white power” patch.
“We can’t get our message out,” complained Jeffrey Berry, the national Imperial Wizard of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. “We are silenced.”
The Klan had predicted a turnout of more than 80 members. Berry said it was the ban on masks, not the protesters, that kept attendance down.
The crowd of anti-Klan protesters, estimated at 8,000, jeered and shouted angrily at the Klan as they walked out.
“We’re fired up! No more talk! Klan crawl back under your rock!” they chanted.
Three police officers were injured trying to control the angry anti-Klan crowd, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said.
Among demonstrators who had supported the Klan’s right to rally were Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and civil rights lawyer Ron Kuby.
“We protect the right of free speech, even if it is stupid and hate speech,” said Nadler.
The rally ended after 75 minutes, with the Klan members flashing a Nazi salute to the crowd and shouting, “White pride!” Police escorted the Klan inside the courthouse as the demonstrators dispersed.
It was the first Klan rally in New York City since 1990, when Klansmen protested the removal of a picture of Jesus Christ from a Queens public school, said Laurie Wood of the watchdog group Klanwatch. The city has only 35 to 40 KKK members, according to Klanwatch.
The legal battle over the rally permit had eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday. Giuliani initially tried to deny the group a rally permit but was overruled.
The city then argued that under an obscure 1845 law the Klan could not gather if members wore hoods that covered their faces. On Friday, a federal appeals court upheld the city’s position.
The Klan appealed Saturday to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to keep their masks, but Ginsburg turned down the request.
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