Foes outnumber Klansmen at rally

October 30, 1994|By Ellen Gamerman and Norris P. West | Ellen Gamerman and Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writers

An interracial group of about 350 people shouted down a vastly outnumbered bus load of Ku Klux Klan members at a rally outside the State House in Annapolis yesterday while 500 more anti-Klan protesters staged a counterdemonstration at a church a few blocks away.

A cascade of boos and jeers rained on Klan speakers, drowning out most of them during the tense, hourlong event. At the end, police whisked the Klansmen, some in white robes and hoods, others in fatigues, to their bus as protesters threw eggs and other objects.

Roger Kelly, Maryland imperial wizard, started his speech shouting, "White power, white power, white power." But he was quickly drowned out by chants of, "Jobs yes, racism no, KKK has got to go!" and "Shame! Shame! Shame!"

A few blocks from the State House, anti-Klan protesters marched up Main Street to a meeting at First Baptist Church that was a mix of civil rights rally and campaign event with candidates making speeches to mobilize voters in the week before Election Day.

"I want to see you turn out in huge numbers in 1994," Parris N. Glendening, Democratic candidate for governor, told the crowd that packed the church sanctuary and spilled out into the street.

"I get very offended, especially with my own people, when they say they're not going to vote," Lewis Bracy, president of the Maryland Forum of African-American Leaders, said.

But some resented the political atmosphere.

"We didn't come here to listen to candidates talk all day," complained Amanda Barnett, 26, of Annapolis. "The Klan is a reality. That's what they should be talking about."

As they marched up Main Street, many demonstrators said the white sheets and hoods of Klansmen brought back frightening memories.

N. T. Sharps, who carried his year-old daughter, Chelsey, on his shoulders, remembered sitting on a friend's porch on West Street in 1961 and watching hooded Klansmen set fire to a 10-foot cross on a patch of grass across the street.

"I was scared," Mr. Sharps said. "I was scared to death wondering if anything was going to happen to us. . . . And I was sitting there on the front porch wondering if they were going to come over and get me next."

Dwayne Howard, 13, of Annapolis, said he was "scared and upset" during the march.

"They wanted us to stay away [from the Klan]," he said. "But I wouldn't have even gotten close."

During the Klan rally, police officers, many on horseback, tried to keep the two sides apart, but the scene became volatile near the end as people shouted over the yellow police tape that separated them.

About 120 officers from the Maryland State Police, Maryland General Services Administration, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County and Maryland-National Capital Park police struggled to keep the 35 Klansmen, including 15 robed men and women, away from the protesters.

Klansmen stretched out five Confederate flags for a backdrop and held posters promoting racial segregation. One poster pictured assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. encircled by a target and marked with cross hairs. The sign read: "Our Dream Came True."

"The only way the two races are going to stay intact is we've got to separate," said one Klan speaker. Another invited whites to fill out applications to join the KKK.

Klan members stood behind a podium with two campaign bumper stickers for Mr. Glendening, and one speaker sarcastically offered support for him.

This contrasted with the group's call earlier this month for support of Republican candidates.

"It's a sick joke," said Eric C. Andrus, a spokesman for Mr. Glendening's campaign. "Anyone who knows Parris Glendening knows that everything he stands for is exactly counter to what the Klan and their hateful demonstration is trying to display."

GOP candidates also have fiercely rejected the KKK's endorsement.

While Klansmen called for racial separation, protesters ridiculed them, shouting profanity and daring those with covered faces to remove their hoods.

Three men in their 20s paraded around Lawyers Mall with green makeup covering their faces and hands. Their sarcastic sign read: "Green Supremacy."

Near the end of the Klan rally, a fight broke out between two people in the crowd, bringing state troopers in riot gear on the run. Protesters surged against the police tape, and some Klan members approached the crowd before the groups were separated by police. No one was arrested in that incident.

Shortly afterward, a demonstrator was accused of throwing an egg at the Klan. The man, Derrick Parker, 31, of Arnold, was released on his own recognizance after being charged with disorderly conduct, said Lt. Gregory M. Shipley, a state police spokesman.

Police had trouble getting the Klan out of Lawyers Mall. They ushered the group into the Legislative Services Building and led them through a tunnel to the House of Delegates office building across College Avenue, then to their bus in a nearby parking lot.

People cheered as the bus pulled away along St. John's Street.

"Get out of our town," one boy shouted.

The Klan has 4,000 dues-paying members nationwide, at least 100 of whom live in Maryland, according to the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League. In Maryland, most of the active Klan groups are in Cecil County, particularly in Elkton.

The size of the anti-Klan rally encouraged Mr. Sharps, 39, a general manager for an income tax service.

"You know, Annapolis isn't fertile ground the way it once was," he said. "There was a time when they could have come in here and had a field day."

Chelsey is "at a very young age, and she doesn't really understand it," he added. "But actually, this march is for her. I'm hoping to tell her about it one day and say this is the way things used to be."

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