ELKTON -- As Elkton officials prepare to vote tonight on a Ku Klux Klan request to march through town April 11, the Klan is keeping a high profile.
Passengers in a white stretch limousine leafleted a black Elkton neighborhood with Klan fliers late last week. Police are investigating the incident.
Earlier last month, Klan members held a cross-burning outside Elkton, and they plan to light a cross again after tonight's vote, said Chester J. Doles, state leader of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
"Any publicity, even if it's bad, is good," Mr. Doles said.
Some of the publicity has not been flattering to Mr. Doles, 31, a county roads department worker. The local press reported he has a long arrest record.
According to court records, Mr. Doles was convicted of illegal possession of a loaded handgun in 1988 and possession of drug paraphernalia in 1989. He served 16 months in state prisons before being released in 1990.
While on probation, he tested positive once for marijuana use, was expelled from a drug and alcohol treatment program for being uncooperative, and was forced to pay nearly $700 in restitution in two assault cases that were placed on an inactive docket, the records show. His probation expired last month.
"I wasn't no angel, I did make some mistakes. I'm a wiser person today," Mr. Doles said this week.
The Klan leader wouldn't admit to having leafleted Elkton's Booth Street last week with fliers that said, "Drug Pushers Beware! The Klan Is Here!"
But he did say, "The police want to get us on littering charges. If they press charges, we'd eat them up with the media."
Bishop Huey L. Harris Sr. of the First Pentecostal Tabernacle Church on Booth Street said his 9-year-old grandson found fliers blowing around the church parking lot on his way to school last Friday morning. Other residents said they saw the limousine Thursday night.
While town officials have hinted they will reject the Klan's bid to march, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has said it would challenge such a decision in court as a violation of the Klan's First Amendment right to free expression.
Bernard L. James, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said that if the Klan is permitted to march, he would propose a counter-march a block away.