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Athens, Limestone officials face conflict of Klan, Trail of Tears

By Holly Hollman · 340-2445

ATHENS — The Limestone County Courthouse grounds are for things like Christmas-tree lightings, not Klan rallies.

That’s what Commission Chairman David Seibert said he told a Limestone County man Wednesday when the man asked for permission for the Ku Klux Klan to hold an anti-immigration rally Sept. 15.

Seibert said he did not know the man’s name, but caller identification showed he was from Limestone County.

On Tuesday, Mayor Dan Williams denied giving the Klan a permit for that day because Athens police will be busy controlling traffic for the annual Trail of Tears motorcycle ride that will come through Athens on U.S. 72 between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The ride usually brings about 100,000 bikers through the city.

Original route

Ride organizers researched the route that the military forced the Cherokees to take from Chattanooga to Water-
loo and discovered that it generally follows present-day U.S. 72.

Williams said the Klan representative who called him claimed he had county permission to use the courthouse lawn that date.

“He didn’t have permission from me because I never would have given it,” Seibert said. “The city can issue permits. We don’t, but we can say who can use county property.”

The Klan representative indicated to officials that the group would rally whether or not it had a permit.

Police Chief Wayne Harper said he plans to talk to the group and explain why it cannot have a rally the same day as the Trail of Tears.

Harper said the group is from Alabama but indicated there would be attendees from outside the area.

“We have to use every officer and reserve officer to control traffic for the motorcycle ride,” he said.

Negative consequences

“If they plan to rally anyway, the consequences would be, we would ask them to leave, and if they didn’t, we could arrest them.”

Seibert said he won’t give permission for a rally at the courthouse.

“The courthouse area is for things that foster good will, and a rally against immigration by the KKK will not foster good will,” he said.

Seibert said he has approved things ranging from weddings to artistic events to anti-tax rallies on the courthouse lawn.

“And I’ve turned down churches who wanted to hold services there because then everyone would want to have church there,” Seibert said. “And I’ve turned down groups like the KKK before.

“I think now the KKK is looking for another public place to have their rally.”

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