Sunday, December 03, 2000

Rally fights Klan with calm

150 honor diversity

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For Miami University student Ed Hensley, Saturday's “Unique All Together” rally showed what is good about Cincinnati and more than counteracted another message introduced on Fountain Square later in the day.

        “Every year that they (Ku Klux Klan) have come, I would come down and participate some way, but usually in a violent or aggressive way,” said Mr. Hensley, 30. “But things like this have helped me come to the realization that the easiest way to get over it is to ignore it and accentuate the positive.”

        Mr. Hensley was one of about 150 who took part in the racially diverse interfaith event at Lytle Park, hastily organized this week to provide an alternate message to that of the cross erected by the Klan on Fountain Square.

        “We have got to do things like this more often,” Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken said. “We talk about visions about new buildings and new stadiums, but we need to have a vision for how we all relate to each other.”

        About two hours after the rally, 11 members of the Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan — including four in robes, three of whom wore masks — put up their white metal cross on the square.

        More than 50 anti-Klan protesters fenced off in another area of the square sang, chanted and shouted. After the cross went up, Klan members and protesters traded threats and insults across police barricades, and one anti-Klan protester was arrested. The Klan left after about 30 minutes.

        Cincinnati Police Lt. Ray Ruberg said that Klan members who wore masks had been identified by police before entering the square and did not violate the city's mask ordinance.

        In addition to the Lytle Park rally, members from the Inter community Justice and Peace Center held prayer vigils at noon and 5 p.m.

        The Klan's permit for the cross runs through Dec. 10. It was the 10th such display since 1990; the Klan did not install a cross last year.

        Joe Hale, 50, of London, Ky., grand dragon for Kentucky, was present at the square. Earlier in the week, he said the Klan's cross was intended to honor Christ, and that one reason area Klan members chose Cincinnati is to honor the memory of Ron Lee Huff of Ross, one of the first Klan members to fight for a permit to put the cross up in 1990. Mr. Huff died recently of a heart attack.


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