Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Let's fight to keep out the Klan

Didn't think I'd have to write my annual Ban the Klan column this year.

City Council banned private displays - sponsored by the Ku Klux Klan and everybody else - from Fountain Square during the holidays.

But, the courts overturned the ban.

So, one private display, a menorah, has already appeared. The appearance of other displays is uncertain. With the city appealing all the way to the Supreme Court, there's no telling what's next.

Two predictions about this annual mess:

The courts will order Cincinnati to use some form of its old first-come, first-served policy to grant permits for displays on the square during the holidays.

The good people of Greater Cincinnati will band together to ban the Klan.

Fountain Square, as court rulings have noted, is a public forum. It essentially belongs to the people. So, let the people solve this problem.

The people can end this controversy - without too much effort - if City Hall lets them.

That's a big "if."

Mayor Charlie Luken has said he's "firmly committed" to the ordinance banning private displays. He needs to be convinced the people can overcome the Klan. Give him a call. His number is 352-3250.

Tell him your group wants to put a display on the square during the holiday season of 2003. End Ohio's bicentennial year on a positive note. Fill Fountain Square with glad tidings. Keep out the Klan. Make the holidays hate-free.

Get in line

Public interest in the first-come, first-served system kept the Klan off the square last holiday season.

The rules were simple: Apply in person, rough sketch in hand, for a permit. Paperwork takes 10 minutes. Applicants do not have to live within the city limits.

Fountain Square could only hold nine displays during a 30-day holiday period. Displays go up three at a time. Each stays for a maximum of 10 days.

Do the math. Do your part. Get in line. Shut out the Klan.

Hometown security

Since 9-11, America has been battling the al-Qaida network of international terrorism.

The Klan has long promoted domestic terror. It has sponsored lynchings, beatings, cross-burnings and all other forms of hate crimes.

Its victims have been innocent Americans who happened to be black or Jewish or someone the Klan saw as different.

I'm betting Greater Cincinnati's forces of good will gladly rise up against the Klan. And will say so to the mayor.

Religious groups and schools have applied for permits in the past. They realize this offers a great opportunity to learn how democracy works. Hundreds more could follow their lead. They could tell the mayor they're ready and willing to line up for an application.

The war on terrorism has fostered talk about troops fighting overseas to keep us free.

We must continue that fight on the home front.

VFW posts, fraternal orders and patriotic organizations should be gung-ho about putting a display on the square. Call the mayor and tell him you're ready to defend freedom at home.

Groups victimized by the Klan should be at the forefront of this effort. The NAACP and Anti-Defamation League should call City Hall and express their willingness to get in line.

Even organizers of Cincinnati's boycott should back this grassroots effort. They are always talking about improving the city and fighting racism. Here's their chance.

Knowing my hometown, I believe people will care enough to call the mayor.

They'll pledge to stand in line and put up a display to fight evil. Just to give us the holiday season we deserve.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379 or e-mail cradel@enquirer.com.

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