April 8, 2004


KKK planning literature drive in Yellow Springs, Village says

Members of the Ku Klux Klan have notified the Village that they intend to organize a public activity here later this month, officials said in recent days.

The Klansmen have told the Village that they want to distribute literature in downtown Yellow Springs on Saturday, April 17, Council president Tony Arnett told a roomful of people during Council’s meeting Monday.

Arnett said that the activity could involve an “undetermined number” of Klansmen handing out “fliers and other literature.” Village Manager Rob Hillard said that the Klansmen have told the Village they would distribute the material from 1 to 3 p.m.

As of Monday, Arnett said, the Klan does not intend to conduct a rally or demonstration here. But Village officials stressed that the Klan has not filed a formal notice of its intentions, and, therefore, the group’s plans could change. If there is a change, Arnett said, the KKK would not necessarily have to notify the Village.

On Tuesday, Police Chief Carl Bush said that the Klansmen belong to the Aryan Knights of the Confederacy of the Ku Klux Klan, which, he said, is located in Ohio.

Village officials said that the Klansmen first notified them last Tuesday of their interest to come to town.

The Klansmen would be permitted to distribute fliers and information on downtown sidewalks, but they cannot congregate to obstruct the sidewalks, Arnett said. He also said that the Klansmen would “not be allowed to harass or intimidate people” or conduct a spontaneous parade or demonstration. Klansmen could also wear costumes, he said.

Klan members would be prohibited from private property unless they had the owner’s permission.

Bush said that the Village has developed a “measured plan” to handle the Klan’s presence here, and that the Village’s “main concern is public safety.” Bush declined to further elaborate on the Village’s preparations, though he did say that there “will be additional resources available to the Village on that day.”

Over the weekend of March 27 and 28, “The Flame,” a six-page newsletter published by the Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which is based in Dayton, was distributed to parts of Yellow Springs and the Antioch campus. The Aryan Knights and the Mystic Knights do not appear to be affiliated, Bush said. He also said that the Aryan Knights told him they had nothing to do with distributing the newsletter.

The leafleting took place after POC [People of Color] Takeover Week during the week of March 22 at Antioch.

Bush said that the Aryan Knights have told him that they want to come to Yellow Springs to respond to racial graffiti that was displayed at Antioch.

Antioch College President Joan Straumanis said that the POC Takeover Week was an “educational activity” organized by student groups to stimulate dialogue on campus. She said that such activities are not unusual at Antioch.

But “certain signs and certain banners” that were posted on campus, she said, and some of the displays were “over the top” and “did disturb some people” and attracted media attention. Straumanis said that after the signs went up, she issued a message on campus instructing students not to post displays that are violent or target individuals. The offending images were taken down, she said.

“We are very proud of our racial peacefulness and our diversity,” she said.

People say ignore Klan

On Monday, Council approved three ordinances in response to the Klan’s plans that, Council said, would protect the public’s safety and individuals’ freedom of expression.

The Council meeting also provided a forum for the approximately 50 Yellow Springers in attendance to discuss ways to address the KKK when it arrives here. Council spent 90 minutes deliberating the ordinances and discussing the Klan’s plans. Arnett called the situation “as important an issue as I can imagine Council dealing with.”

Many of the people at the meeting said that the community should not give the Klan an audience on April 17. Several people also encouraged Yellow Springs churches or other organizations to put together a community event to counter the Klan’s presence. Council member Jocelyn Hardman said that she would like to see churches and schools organize a “unity event,” similar to the way Kettering responded when the Klan held a rally there in March 1999.

Steven Roe said that the “greatest thing we can do” is to “redefine” the situation. “Let’s take power away from those individuals,” he said of the Klansmen.

Arnett said “the best response for the community” would be to ignore the Klan. “The best reaction is for the community to unanimously show opposition to what these groups are about and not give them an audience,” Arnett said after the meeting.

Bob Baldwin said that the Klan will be looking for a confrontation that can be shown on the television news. Ignoring the Klansmen will “deny them that publicity,” he said. Jamie Sharp said that the more people who congregate around the Klan’s activity and the bigger the scene that occurs, “the worse it will be.”

Joan Chappelle, a member of the Village Human Relations Commission, said that the situation is “an opportunity to recommit” to the values Yellow Springs upholds, and “to remind children of who the Klan is.” She said that the community should organize a day to remember that “everyone counts here” and that “every person is welcome here in Yellow Springs.”

Arnett said that organizations planning events should notify the Village manager’s office for safety reasons. Village Manager Rob Hillard can be reached at 767-1279. He also said that the Village is encouraging organizations to not hold community events near downtown.

Laws address KKK plans

In response to the news that the Klan intends to come to Yellow Springs, Council at its meeting Monday unanimously approved three ordinances strengthening Village regulations for parades, congregating on sidewalks and open burning practices. The goal of the legislation is “securing the rights of individuals to have that freedom of expression and securing public safety of all of us,” Arnett said.

Indeed, while Arnett said that he is “appalled by everything” the Klan stands for, he noted that minority groups have certain rights that are protected by the Constitution.

On Tuesday, Bush said that he hopes Yellow Springers understand the role the Police Department must play on April 17. “We have to do our job to protect the safety of all parties involved,” he said.

He said he hopes that local residents will counter the Klan’s activity here by “ignoring them and not coming downtown during that timeframe and confront them.”

The legislation Council approved are emergency ordinances, which means Council adopted them after one reading, instead of two, and they took effect immediately upon passage.

One ordinance now mandates that organizers receive a permit from the Village to hold a parade in Yellow Springs. Previously, the Village had an informal process to approve parades in which parade organizers were required to submit a letter to Council or the Village manager. An informal process neither protects the public nor parade participants, Arnett said.

Under the new process, an application for a parade permit must be made with the chief of police at least five days prior to the event. The application must include such information as the name, address and telephone number of the parade’s organizers; the streets on which the parade would travel; time of the parade; and approximate number of participants. The ordinance states that the Village finds it necessary to regulate the use of public streets and sidewalks to avoid conflict between competing uses of such areas.

The ordinance does not prohibit “single file pedestrian use of public sidewalks” that do not “unreasonably prevent” others from using the sidewalks. It also restricts “any spontaneous marches that might arise” during the Klan’s activity here, Arnett said.

The legislation adds a new chapter, 418, to the Village code book.

Before Monday’s meeting, John Chambers, the Village solicitor, said that the ordinance would allow the Village to better regulate the time, place and manner of an assembly. The law does not seek to regulate or limit the content of a parade or assembly, Chambers added.

A second ordinance prohibits people from obstructing public sidewalks or other rights of way. It also prohibits people from carrying signs or banners on a public sidewalk over 12 square feet or from carrying signs attached to poles greater than eight feet tall. The ordinance amends section 660.10 of the Village code book.

The ordinance requires law enforcement officials to first warn people who are blocking the sidewalks to disperse before making any arrests, Chamber said.

But it is clear that the Klansmen will have a right to distribute literature on downtown’s sidewalks. The courts have said that the “right to use sidewalks to express an opinion is a fundamental right” that the Village “will be hard-pressed to restrict,” Chamber said.

The third ordinance — which amended section 660.08 — prohibits opening burning on Village-owned property and public streets, sidewalks and rights of way. It also bans open burning after dark.

The ordinance states that a permit from the Village is not needed if open burning is for recreational fires, barbecues and fire-training exercises. Other types of open burning are only permitted with a permit from the Village.

The Village withdrew a fourth ordinance for the meeting that would have banned people from wearing masks or hoods that concealed their identity in public. Though a number of communities around the U.S. have approved such laws, some have been overturned by the courts. After the meeting, Arnett said that the ordinance was unworkable. He noted that people wear masks for a variety of reasons, including medical needs or religious customs.