Ku Klux Klan rally runs short

Counter-protesters have their say

They came marching up Fleming Street dressed in black, armed with Confederate and swastika flags and carrying a message.

The dozen Ku Klux Klan members settled in the median in front of Augusta State University Saturday and faced nearly 300 onlookers who had been awaiting their arrival.

KKK members looked straight ahead at the hundreds lining the sidewalk guarded by police. The crowd studied their flags, their stances, their appearances -- no white hoods or robes in sight.

And the silence broke.

"Why are you here?" shouted an onlooker.

"We all live on this planet together," yelled another.

"We're here about the amendments of the Constitution of the United States," said KKK member David Webster. "We believe there is a serious violation of the Constitution."

KKK members and representatives from the Supreme White Alliance rallied at ASU in support of graduate student Jennifer Keeton, who filed suit against the school in July for requiring her to learn about the homosexual community or face expulsion.

The school asked Keeton to complete a remediation plan after she said she would tell gay clients "their behavior is morally wrong and then help the client change that behavior," according to an affidavit filed in the case.

Keeton's attorneys had condemned the rally.

Although the KKK said at least 50 members would arrive at 1 p.m. and rally until 4 p.m., the group of a dozen showed up about 1:40 p.m. and left about a 30 minutes later.

The dozens of counter-protesters from homosexual and civil rights organizations made use of their time face-to-face with Klan members.

"I think obviously those who came in support of equality and love outnumbered those who came in support of white supremacy," said Christin Meador, an Augusta native who traveled from New York City to organize a protest against the KKK. She founded Proud Ally in 2009, a national gay-straight alliance that promotes tolerance and education.

Meador and other counter protesters lined the streets surrounding ASU's main entrance on Walton Way with signs and messages of tolerance an hour before the KKK arrived.

"No second class citizenship," "Love not hate," and "Keeton great career move," were some of signs the counter-protesters held in front of the KKK group.

Dialogue continued between Klansmen and protesters continued until the group of KKK members marched back down Fleming Street.

Police blocked hundreds in the crowd from approaching the KKK members as they followed their retreat.

After weeks of security preparation for the rally, Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Scott Gay said the showing was as much as he could have expected. The rally did not turn violent.

"We're not afraid of them, they are more of an inconvenience," Gay said. "We're here to protect the citizens of Richmond County. Unfortunately we have to protect (the KKK) too."

After the Klansmen marched out of sight, counter protesters lingered in front of ASU posing for pictures and hugging after the day's efforts.

Although the rally was brief, Augusta resident Chris Bryant said he will try to make local citizens remember the event.

He and his wife shot video of the Klan and interviewed onlookers on race relations in Augusta and the country.

Bryant stood in front of the Klan group and shouted questions until police intervened.

"I'm going to put it out on YouTube to promote a message of unity and positivity," Bryant said. "The Klan here is just ridiculous. It's ridiculous."

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