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Sounds of Discord at Klan Rally

January 20, 2002|From Associated Press

NEWPORT, Tenn. — Rain and drums drowned out the words of two dozen members of the Ku Klux Klan at a rally Saturday held days after a wooden cross was burned on the lawn of the town's first black mayor.

The rally, the first public Klan event in the region in decades, fell on Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's birthday and two days before Martin Luther King Day.

Klan organizers said the town of 7,100 was selected because it was a convenient location, not because it has a black mayor. They denied involvement in the cross burning early Wednesday.

About 800 people attended a diversity festival Saturday held to counter the Klan event. Mayor Roland Dykes received a standing ovation.

"Now is the time for Americans to renounce the protests of a vocal minority, which opposes our fight to preserve and promote freedom," Dykes said.

At the Klan rally, about 400 people watched from behind yellow police tape, chanting and playing drums to drown out the Klan's remarks.

More than 125 state troopers stood shoulder to shoulder in riot gear between the audience and the KKK. There were four arrests for public drunkenness but no fights.

The leader of the Church of the Knights of Yahweh, the Morristown-based KKK branch behind the rally, said afterward that he realized it was hard to hear but that the news media were not paying attention to what the Klan had to say on issues anyway.

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