Date: Sun, 23 Jun 1996 18:38:50 -0500
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Posted: Ronnie Dadone <email@example.com>
Rally Against Klan Drive/Hollidaysburg, PA
The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sunday 16 June 1996
HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. -- Nearly 40 masked and hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan traded slurs and insults yesterday with residents opposed to their white supremacist views.
The verbal exchanges stopped short of violence, due largely to a full turnout by Hollidaysburg police during the Klan's hourlong rally in this central Pennsylvania town.
The rally was part of the Klan's recruitment drive throughout Pennsylvania, which started Friday night with a cross burning in Chaneysville, Bedford County. Today, Blair County religious and community leaders are planning a unity march in opposition to the Klan beginning at the First Presbyterian Church in Altoona. A crowd of about 100 mostly white opponents jeered yesterday as soon as Steve Bowers, a Klansman from Lancaster County, began introducing Klan speakers from several neighboring states.
"Our country is being destroyed," Bowers said. "If we can't take back our country by peaceful means, we will take it back by force." Susan Leach of Duncansville screamed in response: `I get tired of this hate!"
Brad Thompson, a Klan member from Indiana, urged white couples to have more babies "so the white race won't be submerged in color." Another opponent shouted repeatedly for the speakers to take off their masks.
Police officers stepped in to separate Klansmen from several black members of the crowd in the rally's only incident that threatened to flare into violence.
Mayor James Shoemaker said he had hoped no one would show up to oppose the rally at the Blair County courthouse annex. "All they want is someone to talk back to them," he said of the racist group. But Marc Amerine of Altoona said he was embarrassed that local politicians failed to take a public stand against the Klan. "They couldn't take five minutes to protest," Amerine said. On Friday night, in Chanesyville, a woman was restrained by more than two dozen Ku Klux Klan members as she tried unsuccessfully to stop them from lighting an 18-foot cross on her farm.
Yvonne Conrad said the Klan was trespassing on the farm, but police and the supremacist group said she signed a lease giving them access.
Conrad arrived at the overgrown property in south-central Pennsylvania Friday night to see the wooden cross heavily doused with kerosene and diesel fluid.
Then Klansmen lit the cross while Grand Dragon C. Edward Foster intoned, "We hail the fiery cross that burns so bright." Chaneysville is the same town made famous by the 1982 novel The Chaneysville Incident, about a group of slaves attempting to escape along the Underground Railroad. The book was written by David Bradley, a Temple University professor who was stripped of his tenure and fired last month for failing to teach two classes.
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