Published Tuesday, July 28, 1998
Locals plot responses to KKK rally
By Laurel Bosshart
Herald News Intern
Calling themselves a Representation of Concerned Citizens Against the Ku Klux Klan, about 50 people met Monday night in the basement of the Greater Morris Chapel African American Episcopal Church, Farrell, to counter the question on everyone’s mind about the upcoming KKK rally.
Several suggestions were hashed out by the group, ranging from simply ignoring the Klan by not giving them any attention to holding a type of peace rally instead for members of the community to attend.
James Epstein, Mercer County District Attorney, said he checked and double-checked the legalities involved concerning the KKK’s request for a rally at the Mercer County Courthouse. Epstein said under both Pennsylvania and Mercer County law, they have the right to assemble.
“It’s the law and we have to obey the law,” said Chairman of Mercer County Commissioners Dick Stevenson.
Stevenson went on to say that he believes the community should hold a rally to counteract the Klan’s rally. He stressed that it should be a community rather than government rally, although elected officials will be happy to support the affair.
Frank Detelich, Mercer County Chief of Police, said the police force is ready with a plan they believe will work. He said although he is not expecting any trouble, the police department is “well-prepared” to handle any situation which arises.
Mercer County Sheriff Bill Romine suggested the community put a positive spin on the KKK rally by holding a counter rally similar to one held March in Butler. In that case, representatives from Butler worked together and held a very successful peace rally at the same time the KKK was holding their rally.
“There were over 3,000 people that attended the community (Butler) rally,” said Lt. Billy Williams, station commander of the Mercer barracks. “Only 300 people showed up at the KKK rally.”
Several people said they believe the best way to deal with the KKK is by not dealing with them at all.
“I think we should ignore it (rally) completely,” said Hermitage Commissioner James “Pat” White. “They only want the publicity.”
Charlotte Pegues, vice president of the Mercer County chapter of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the initial reaction of the NAACP was also to ignore the Klan.
“Then we thought we could have another rally or workshop at the same time with everyone in the community involved,” she said.
The Rev. Wilbert G. Hadden, of Greater Mount Zion Church of God in Christ, Farrell, said he believes that if a rally is held there should be a forum where people would have the opportunity to vocalize how they feel.
“It may be good if we had some kind of open forum,” said Rev. Frederick Newell, who was hosting the meeting at Greater Morris Chapel AME Church, Farrell. “Something where a person would vent feelings without engaging in confrontation.”
Almost everyone at the meeting raised their hand after Mr. Newell asked if they wished the group to be non-confrontational. Mr. Newell went on to say that they will try to find something where everyone can join in together, but stressed that confrontation is not the answer.
A meeting of the NAACP will be held tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Valley Baptist Church, 500 Sharon-New Castle Road, Farrell, where the KKK rally will be discussed. Anyone interested may attend.
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Updated July 28, 1998
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