Largely anti-KKK crowd protests at rally in Athens
By Paul Huggins
and Amy Pollick
ATHENS — A Ku Klux Klan rally protesting immigration drew several hundred people to downtown Athens on Saturday.
The rally started at about 3 p.m. in front of City Hall and ended at about 40 minutes later when the Klan group entered the municipal building. Athens police then quickly dispersed the crowd.
There were some shouting matches but no arrests, police said.
Klansmen and their supporters appeared to number about 30, including two or three wearing robes without hoods and two wearing military-style uniforms.
At times, the largely anti-Klan crowd shouted chants such as “KKK, go away,” drowning out the voice of the KKK speaker.
The crowd also included silent protesters against the Klan’s presence, participating in a “Silent Witness of Love” organized by churches. They held yellow signs reading “Love.”
Klan group members walked up First United Methodist Church’s sidewalk, through about 20 Silent Witness protesters. Protesters held up their signs and said nothing.
The Rev. Jimmy Bassham, senior pastor, informed the Klan group they were on private property. They answered that they thought the church was the Athens City Hall.
Bassham pointed out the City Hall premises next door, and the Klan group left.
The Rev. Jeremy Lucas, rector of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, led Silent Witness members in a march down Marion Street, beside City Hall. After several minutes of standing directly in front of the Klan speakers, Athens police asked them to move to First UMC’s front yard.
The Klan originally wanted to rally at the Limestone County Courthouse during the same time as the Trail of Tears motorcycle ride commemorating the displacement of Native Americans.
Police denied the initial request, saying all officers were needed to monitor traffic while thousands of motorcyclists rode through the city between 11:30 and 2 p.m.
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