Klan presses for rally permit

The Kalamazoo Gazette/July 1, 1999
By Kathy Jessup

Three Rivers - The Ku Klux Klan's national imperial wizard said Wednesday he'll bring American Civil Liberties Union lawyers and his own security force of "Nighthawks" to a planned July 17 rally here. And he promised an expensive federal court suit against Three Rivers if leaders attempt to deny the KKK an assembly permit or charge the group for the cost of added police protection.

While the KKK's own literature describes it as a "Christian, civil rights, white separatist group," the Rev. Jeffery L. Berry of Butler, Ind., national imperial wizard for the Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, claimed his group is unfairly portrayed as racially and religiously divisive.

"If they don't issue the permit, we're going to bring 250 to 300hooded Klan there and that town is going to pay dearly in federal court for lawyers," Berry said in a telephone interview.

"All we're asking for is the same hospitality that they would extend to any other group."

The KKK leader claimed his group already has a "big presence" in the Three Rivers area. Berry said the KKK was asked to sponsor a Three Rivers rally by "people who are tired of the gang violence and the drugs."

""They want the police to quit letting these young people run loose like a bunch of wild savages," Berry charged, claiming his comments were not targeting minority youths.

"I have no knowledge of anyone who invited them to Three Rivers," said John Daly, Three Rivers city manager. "If they want to step forward and discuss these issues they're concerned about, we'd be happy to do that."

Berry said he expects to bring 35 to 50 KKK members in "uniform," with others in street attire to provide security.

He disclaimed characterizations of his group as racially bigoted against minorities and homosexuals.

The Indiana Klansman described the robes and hoods worn by members as "religious attire."

"The members wear the hoods to cover their faces because they are sinners of God," Berry said. "They also protect the identity of our people."

". . . We're a racial healing group, not a hate group. But how can we heal when the government is passing laws against the white race?"

The KKK will oppose any charges levied by the city for added police presence, he added.

"We didn't ask for it. We don't want it and we don't have to pay for it," Berry said.

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