Anti-Klan group sponsors Mount Airy diversity rally

July 15, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

MOUNT AIRY -- A citizens group formed after the Ku Klux Klan announced it would recruit members here will sponsor a rally Saturday to celebrate the town's diversity, organizers said.

For Midge Thomas, who grew up and still lives in the black community of Dorseytown just north of town, the rally is a way to show her opposition to a group that has hurt her family.

When she was a child, Ms. Thomas said, Klan members burned down her grandfather's blacksmith shop. She remembers the bucket brigade that family and friends formed to try to put out the fire.

"History has taught us to be vigilant," she said.

Ms. Thomas is a member of the Coalition to Improve Community Life, which has about 15 members. The group was started after the Klan announced in April that it would visit the town as part of an 11-town, three-month membership drive.

Coalition members said they have not heard when or if the Klan still plans to visit the town. A Klan official could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Saturday's rally, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Watkins Park, will feature speakers and musicians. Among the speakers are state Del. Thomas H. Hattery, D-Frederick; the Rev. Robert D. Herzog, pastor at St. James Episcopal Church; and Niya Diggs, Ms. Thomas' 15-year-old granddaughter.

"It's really an anti-Klan rally. I'm hoping enough people show up and want to take a stand," Ms. Thomas said.

Mary Judy, a member of the coalition's steering committee, said she doesn't want her four children growing up in a place "where the Klan might feel welcome."

She said she hopes the rally will be a positive way to emphasize the town's diversity.

"As more people move into the community, it is becoming more diversified," Ms. Judy said.

Nate Crews, another steering committee member, said the coalition hopes to help foster an atmosphere in town "where everybody throws in to make it better."

Mr. Crews, 47, has lived here for only six months and said it's important for people to be aware of what's going on in the community.

"We need to be point guards, lookouts, and share and exchange information," he said.

The coalition meets at 7:30 tonight at St. James Episcopal Church, 202 N. Main St. The meeting is open to the public.

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