Standing up to the Klan

March 10, 1992

The tiny town of Elkton swung a valiant slingshot against the sloth that is the Ku Klux Klan.

The Cecil County town recently denied a permit to the Klan to march next month on the same parade route more typically trod by Little Leaguers welcoming Opening Day or Jaycees racing bathtubs to raise charity. The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union plans to file suit on behalf of the KKK, claiming that the town's action violates the constitutional guarantee of free speech.

It's likely the Klan will win in court. Elkton claims the parade could incite violence. Its defense will probably require more. In 1978, the Supreme Court refused to block a Nazi march in Skokie, Ill., ruling that the marchers' hateful message was not an inherent threat to safety. The court may provide further guidance on so-called "hate speech" this spring when it is expected to hear the case of a white teen-ager who was prosecuted for

burning a cross on a black family's yard in St. Paul, Minn.

In its defense, the Klan tries to cake make-up on a ghastly face. The group's new message is anti-drugs, according to the Invisible Empire's Maryland leader, who is fresh from serving time for gun and drug-related convictions himself. The Klan now euphemistically calls what it does at night for the benefit of TV cameras "cross-lightings."

The KKK are opossums for publicity: fresh meat or road kills, no matter how distasteful the coverage, it all smells good to them. Elkton is merely the latest town to have to maneuver on the Klan's bizarre battlefield, where bad news is good and the First Amendment and drug-fighting become shields for hate-mongers. Whether or not Elkton loses the war, fighting the battle against hate and racism is always right.

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