Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Ban the Klan

Now's time to claim our square

        Fountain Square sure looks festive. There's no Klan cross spoiling the view — or the holidays.

        At least not this year.

        The Ku Klux Klan has vowed that its divisive cross — which cost Cincinnati $17,500 last year in police protection fees — will be back on the square for the 2002 holiday season. So says the hate group's imperial wizard.

        Let's make that wizard eat his words.

        Fill out an application for a 2002 Fountain Square holiday display.

        Do it today.

        Ban the Klan next year.

        Citizens of good will banded together to keep the Klan off the square this year. They shut out the hate-mongers by filling all the available spaces.

        This can happen again in 2002.

        But don't delay.

Space limited

        Fountain Square can accommodate only nine displays during the 30-day holiday season. Displays go up three at a time. Each stays for a maximum of 10 days.

        Applications are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Bring a sketch of your display today to the Department of Public Services. That's in the Centennial Plaza Two building behind City Hall. Go to Suite 215. It's open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

        The forms take 10 minutes — tops — to complete.

        Two applications for 2002 have already have been received.

        Neither — Fountain Square coordinator Pam Greely assured me — is from the Klan.

        Any nonprofit organization can apply for one of these permits. Fraternal orders. Social groups. Churches. Schools.

        Especially schools.

        The application process is a fine teaching tool. Students can learn about taking a stand and making a display as well as making a difference.

        Just ask the kids at Nativity School.

Lessons learned

        What better school to have a place on the square at Christmastime than one named Nativity?

        Bob Herring, principal of the Pleasant Ridge school, read my annual Ban the Klan column last December. He was moved to apply that day. The school ultimately received a permit to put up a 6-foot tall, white plywood Christmas tree.

        “A school dad made the tree,” Bob told me. “Third-, seventh- and eighth-graders decorated it with the ceramic and Styrofoam ornaments they made.”

        Kelsey Wilkens and Monty Milburn made ornaments out of Styrofoam snowflakes. The 12-year-old seventh-graders also knew why they were making them.

        “We're taking up a permit so the Ku Klux Klan can't promote their prejudice against people of different races,” Kelsey said.

        Klansmen, Monty noted, “show a lot of hatred. If this hatred keeps going, people in this country might have a war with each other.”

        The Nativity School tree, with its carefully hung ornaments of different colors and shapes, “shows we should respect each other with equality,” he added. “It's a great way to pull our community together.”

        Kelsey saw the tree as a guidepost, pointing to the promise of what lies beyond the present strife and unrest.

        “At this time in our nation,” she said, “we are promoting peace and love.”

        For the 2002 holiday season, there's still room to display those sentiments on Fountain Square.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340; or e-mail at


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