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Klan Returns To Birthplace To Protest King Holiday

January 19, 1986

PULASKI, Tenn. (AP) _ About 100 Ku Klux Klan members marched through the group’s birthplace Saturday and burned a cross to protest the observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and to proclaim the Klan America’s salvation.

A largely white crowd of more than 1,000, including some anti-Klan protesters, turned out to watch the parade of the Grand Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and other Klan factions from as far away as Idaho.

″The Klan is the answer, the watchdog, the salvation to save America,″ John Norman Warnock, an attorney from Camden, Ark., declared at a rally that preceded the march through Pulaski, where the original Klan was founded 120 years ago.

The rally was held on a football field named for Confederate war hero Sam Davis.

The marchers carried flags and banners along a six-block route, chanting, ″What to we want? White power 3/8″ and ″Save the land 3/8 Join the Klan 3/8″

Most of the onlookers were silent, but some carried signs with such messages as ″KKK Promotes Terrorism″ and ″Red and Yellow, Black and White, We Are All Precious In God’s Sight.″

Some in the crowd taunted Klan members during the parade and rally, but there was no violence, police said.

Afterward, several hundred people attended a cross-burning conducted by the Klan in a farm field about 15 miles north of Pulaski.

About two dozen Klansmen, some in robes and some wearing masks, lit torches and stood in a circle around a flaming cross. A crowd, including several Klansmen wearing battle fatigues and carrying semi-automatic weapons, formed a circle around them.

Grand Wizard Stanley McCullom of Tuscumbia, Ala., requested a permit for the march Dec. 17, saying Pulaski was an appropriate setting to protest the King holiday because the Klan began here in 1865.

King, the black civil rights leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize for espousing non-violent social change, was slain in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. Monday is the first observance of a national holiday in King’s honor.

People praise King ″more than they do any king or queen,″ complained James R. Venable, another speaker at the rally. Venable, 81, of Stone Mountain, Ga., said he had been a Klan member since 1923.

Under the conditions of the parade permit, Klan members were not allowed to wear masks or their traditional hoods.

Most of the Klan members at the rally were clad in military fatigues, berets and combat boots, and some carried signs displaying a black cross inside a white circle on a red field.

The original Ku Klux Klan was formed in Pulaski on Dec. 24, 1865, by community leaders who feared losing control of local government to former slaves and Northerners in the wake of the Civil War.

It spread across the South but was disbanded in 1869 by Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest, a former Confederal general, after Tennessee passed a law forbidding Klan activities. The current Klan was organized in 1915 in Stone Mountain and, incorporating anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism in its beliefs, flourished in the 1920s and again during the civil rights era of the 1960s.

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