Ku Klux Klan to Erect Cross on Cincinnati Square
CINCINNATI (AP) _ The Ku Klux Klan is erecting a 10-foot high cross in response to a judge’s ruling that allowed a Jewish group to set up a Hanukkah menorah on a public square.
Mayor Dwight Tillery said he deplores plans for the Klan’s display, which was to be put up Sunday, but was legally bound to grant the organization a permit to erect the cross for 10 days.
The cross would stand on Fountain Square, within 200 feet of the two 18- foot-tall electrically lit candelabrums displayed in honor of the eight-day Hanukkah celebration, which began at sundown Saturday.
Ron Lee, spokesman for the U.S. Knights of the KKK, said the cross is ″erected for Jesus Christ, not the Klan.″
The city faced a similar situation two years ago.
In 1990, the city, which decorates the square with Christmas trees, objected to ″religious″ symbols on the square and wouldn’t issue a permit for a menorah. This year, Cincinnati officials argued that it didn’t have the personnel to guard the display overnight.
Then, like now, the Jewish congregation obtained a federal-court order allowing the menorah, and the Klan responded by erecting a cross.
Last year there was another court-ordered menorah on the square but the Klan took no action.
In 1990, six robed Klansmen held a rally after setting up the cross and were met by hundreds of jeering people. One fire captain was slightly injured by an object hurled from the crowd, and seven people were arrested.
Police used chemical Mace to repel some protesters who charged toward the Klansmen, and the KKK ended its rally after only 15 minutes.
The Klan did not ask permission to stage a rally this year, police said.
City Council member Tyrone Yates has organized a flashlight vigil on the square Sunday in protest of the Klan’s display.
″The intention is to shine lights into the darkness that the Klan cross signifies on Fountain Square,″ Yates said. ″To do nothing is to grant approval.″
Rabbi Sholom Kalmanson, the executive vice president of Chabad House of Cincinnati who has been fighting the city in federal court since 1987 to erect the menorah, said he thought the city opened the door for the Klan by challenging the display and creating publicity.
″If someone’s looking for sensation and you invite it, they’re going to use it,″ Kalmanson said.
But he said: ″If we want to play the American game, this is the price we pay for democracy.″