Ku Klux Klan targeting Civil War sites
Share with others:
Civil War battlefields, magnets for tourists and the media, are a new target of the Ku Klux Klan.
The white supremacist organization will demonstrate Sept. 2 at Gettysburg National Military Park, site of the Civil War's bloodiest battle.
It will be the second event of its type in three months. About 30 Klansmen and members of like-minded groups rallied June 10 at Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Md.
Gordon Young, a Sharpsburg resident and imperial wizard of the World Knights of the KKK, obtained the permits for both demonstrations.
"The Klan is the ghost of the Confederacy," Mr. Young said yesterday in explaining his interest in battlefields where Southern soldiers fought and died.
He has another reason for staging rallies at Civil War sites.
"The battle-fields protect my constitutional rights a lot better than the cities do," said Mr. Young, 40, a Klan member for 16 years.
Gettysburg, in south central Pennsylvania, is the nation's most-visited Civil War site, drawing 1.7 million people a year.
John A. Latschar, superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park, said he is obl igated to accommodate the Klan. He called the organization's claim of racial superiority "inflammatory," but said it nonetheless is protected by the First Amendment.
"The United States Constitution guarantees everyone the right to speak freely and to assemble peaceably, regardless of the content of their message," Mr. Latschar said.
The staff at Antietam took an identical position. "The Supreme Court has ruled consistently that national parks in particular are places of freedom of expression," said Antietam Superintendent John Howard.
Some 30 people went to Antietam to counter the Klan. Both groups were dwarfed by police, who numbered about 200.
Ben Wagner, human resources manager of Antietam, said the Klan received more publicity for its appearance at the battlefield than it did when it rallied a few miles away in the town of Sharpsburg.
Antietam and Gettysburg remain in the public eye because of their wartime significance. The battle at Antietam Creek on Sept. 17, 1862, left 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers dead, wounded or missing. That was the single most destructive day of the Civil War. One soldier who died was only 12 years old.
Fighting at Gettysburg lasted July 1-3, 1863. It left 51,000 soldiers dead, injured or missing.
First Published July 4, 2006 12:00 am