Klan says 50 will demonstrate

ASU to see tight security Saturday
Augusta State student Jennifer Keeton sued the university in July.

The Ku Klux Klan predicts more than 50 members in full regalia to rally near the campus of Augusta State University on Saturday.

They plan to protest the treatment of Jennifer Keeton, a graduate student who faces expulsion from the counseling program because of her views on homosexuality.

But whether that many people will actually show is anyone's guess.

Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Scott Gay said he is working closely with ASU public safety to provide security. They're planning for the largest number of people to show up, plus protestors.

"We plan for the worst and hope for the best," Gay said. For security reasons, he declined to give specifics on the precautions being taken.

A spokeswoman for ASU said the county is handling security arrangements.

Historically, the record is mixed about Klan rallies.

At a rally in Gloverville, S.C., this April, only Grand Dragon of South Carolina Tim Bradley showed up at a city park. The rest of the members got lost en route, Bradley said.

There are similar stories around the country of short-lived Klan rallies and Klan members routed by stone-throwing counter-protestors.

But there was also a south Georgia rally in Nahunta in February attended by about 40 Klan members and hundreds more turning out in support.

More recently, on Sept. 12, a similar size rally was held in Ellijay, Ga., near Chattanooga, Tenn.

Though 40 Klansmen might not sound like many, "in this day and age that many in regalia is a large gathering," said Bill Nigut, the southeastern regional director for the Anti-Defamation League.

"Georgia has had a resurgence of Klan activity," Nigut added.

Nigut limited his speculation about turnout for Saturday's rally -- which Keeton, through her attorneys, has denounced -- but said there are two things going in its favor.

An organizer such as Bobby Spurlock, the imperial wizard knighthawk and grand dragon of South Carolina and North Carolina, can draw the numbers. Also, the Keeton case is a controversial and national story, so it has a large number of supporters and detractors, Nigut said.

Then again, the ADL has discussed Augusta's rally with the U.S. Department of Justice and at this point there's no reason to believe it's a big deal, Nigut said.

Mark Potok, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, is more blunt in his assessment of Saturday's rally.

"It's all bluster," Potok said. "The Klan is a sorry shadow of its former self."

It's common for the KKK to brag about big numbers, but usually they are largely outnumbered by the counter-protestors, Potok said. Even on the white supremacist scene, the Klan is seen as less important today, he said.

In its heyday during the 1920s, the Klan had about 4 million members. Over the decades those numbers declined to the current estimates of about 6,000.

"They just don't have the people to put on the street, no matter what they boast about," Potok said.

Information from The Florida Times-Union and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was used in this report.

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