Klansmen surprise crowds in Edgefield

Klan members
Klan members
Klan members passed out fliers on Edgefield square on Thursday.

EDGEFIELD, S.C. -- Jessica Harrison said she'd never seen anything like it. On Thursday afternoon, costumed Klansmen were passing out flyers on the town square.

Harrison and scores of others looked on as robed members of the Church of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan appeared unexpectedly in downtown Edgefield passing out flyers for a rally the group planned for the location from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.  Saturday.

“I was shocked,” Harrison said. “I got a phone call ... and went to the door (of the Edgefield County Public Library) and they were there. I’d never even seen (a Klan member) before. I wanted to go over and say something, but I held it in. I asked the police about it and I understand that they can (be in public).”

Harrison, who is black, said she received some mixed messages from members.

“They just said they weren’t racist and that some of them have mixed babies,” she said. “That shocked me with them being up there (handing out flyers) with the burning cross.”

Edgefield Police Chief Ronnie Carter said the group had informed him of both their intentions to be on the square Thursday and of the planned rally on Saturday. A uniformed officer was present, but no disturbance was reported. Some business owners called Town Hall to express their displeasure with the presence of the group.

A man who identified himself as the Grand Dragon of the South Carolina Chapter of the Church of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan quickly dispersed his group and had them remove their robes and flags after a crowd of passersby began to gather.

He said that while he was from South Carolina, the other members had traveled to the area from Tennessee.

Harrison said she actually might attend the group's Saturday rally, which falls on the same day as the popular Ridge Peach Festival in Trenton.

"I might be up here ...,” she said. “I really might be, just to see what happens.”