Klan rally sparks meeting Authorities will ask residents to respond peacefully on Feb. 7

January 19, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

City and state law enforcement officials are meeting with Annapolis residents tonight to prepare for a Feb. 7 Ku Klux Klan rally protesting the state's observance of Black History Month.

The meeting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be at 5: 30 p.m. at Asbury United Methodist Church on West Street. State police say they want to work with community leaders to help ensure a peaceful response to the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which received a permit in November to demonstrate in front of the State House.

It is the second time in four years that the KKK has demonstrated in the state's capital. In 1994, about 120 officers from state, county and city law enforcement agencies struggled to control 35 Klansmen, including 15 robed men and women, and several hundred anti-Klan protesters.

"Our concern is for the safety of life for the citizens of Maryland," said Lt. Houston E. Karnes, commander of the Annapolis state police barracks. "We're talking to community leaders in an attempt to get them to demonstrate in another part of town because we know there will be a counterdemonstration to the Klan.

"We just want to make sure both groups won't have a confrontation," Karnes said.

About 30 to 60 Klan members are expected at the rally from 1: 30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Karnes said. State police have been dealing with Jason R. Pioro, who provided a post office box number in Catonsville but no telephone number, to set up for the KKK rally, Karnes said.

Pioro could not be located yesterday for comment. Other local Klan members could not be reached for comment last week.

At last week's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner in Annapolis, black community leaders encouraged citizens to attend tonight's meeting.

Former city alderman and longtime civil rights activist Carl O. Snowden said that "1998 is going to be an extremely important year for our community. Our community will be tested very early in the year. We will show them how an entire community can respond to the Klan."

In 1994, more than 800 protesters showed up that October to easily outnumber a bus load of KKK members. The crowd jeered and booed the Klan members during their speeches, and a fight broke out between two people in the crowd, bringing in state troopers in riot gear.

Police later whisked the Klansmen to their bus as protesters threw eggs and other objects.

A month later, about 300 fliers were distributed in black communities challenging residents to meet in front of the State House, but the Klan never came.

Similarly, a white supremacist group distributed fliers in August about a cross burning planned in Davidsonville, but again no one showed. In response, however, several hundred people gathered in Crofton for an anti-racism rally.

"We're not out to promote or dissuade anyone from demonstrating," said Capt. Zora Lykken, Annapolis police spokeswoman, about tonight's meeting.

"It is just fact-finding because we need to know what the community is planning to do in response so that everybody on both sides will have police protection and act orderly," she said.

Pub Date: 1/19/98

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