Originally created 09/13/99

Klan marches through Clover

CLOVER, S.C. -- A high school sophomore picked up applications for himself and friends as about two dozen Ku Klux Klan members rallied here.

"I support the Klan; I like what they do," said the 15-year-old boy, who wouldn't give his name to The (Rock Hill) Herald. "I'm not against lighting the cross, but I'm against hanging people. I'm not anti-black, but I'm pro-white."

The teen wasn't the only supporter at Saturday's rally as the Carolina Knights of the KKK marched and handed out pamphlets and applications. Most of the 100 or so people watching the rally appeared to be curiosity seekers.

Clover town officials initially declined the Klan's request to march. When the Klan threatened to sue to protect First Amendment rights, the town relented.

As the Klan rallied, at least 25 Clover police, York County deputies and State Law Enforcement Division agents watched. A Hickory, N.C., police officer videotaped the rally. The Klan plans a rally in Hickory next week.

Several people said they didn't like the Klan or its ideas.

"I don't think there is much room for this in Clover," Michael Burlinski said.

Mr. Burlinski stopped by with his 9-year-old son and stayed because he wanted to show his son what happens to people who become followers instead of leaders, he said.

A black family watched the march from their van at a nearby gas station and said they were stunned to see the Klan march down U.S. Highway 321.

"This is Clover," one woman in the van said, declining to give The (Rock Hill) Herald her name for fear of retribution. "I still feel like there are a lot of older people here that don't want to move on. They don't want to see tomorrow."

Ed Hohman of Rock Hill waved a Confederate flag, protesting the Klan's use of the banner. A member of the Confederate States of America Historical Preservation Society, Mr. Hohman and 10-year-old Jack Park held a sign reading, "Stop defiling this flag."

"These people have walked around for years waving this flag in people's faces, and that's how it's been tagged as a racist thing," Mr. Hohman said. "That's exactly what's causing all the problems with this flag."

Virgil Griffin, the Imperial Wizard of the Christian Knights, told the crowd the Klan isn't a hate group. He laced his speech with attacks on busing, integrated schools, interracial marriage, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the NAACP.

Supporters said the Klan sticks up for white rights.

Dennis Stewart, bound for Gastonia, N.C., decided to stop for the rally.

"I feel like if it wasn't for the KKK, the white man wouldn't have anything in this country," Mr. Stewart said.

A group of recent Clover High School graduates laughed as they recognized people they knew from school in the rally.

Curtis Bowles, 9, watched the march from the median of Main Street with his aunt. The boy said he didn't understand the Klan's message, adding some of his best friends were black.

The only difference between his white and black friends, Curtis said, is "just the color of their skin."


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