Wednesday, October 11, 2000

KKK seeks permit for Fountain Square cross

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Ku Klux Klan has a request in for its Christmas cross display on Fountain Square.

        But the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission says the city should reject the permit because the Klan incited violence during a rally in January.

        The Rev. Jeffery Berry, KKK national imperial wizard, said Tuesday the Christmas display is a peaceful one.

        “This here has nothing to do with a rally,” he said in a phone interview from his Indiana home. “This is not a racially motivated thing. This is about Christian values. It's a cross to say the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins, no matter what color you are.”

        He said the Klan is a religious group and if officials try to stop the display, he will file a federal lawsuit against the city.

        “I was the very first one to file for a permit this year,” the Rev. Mr. Berry said. “Because of what they did last year, I got the first one.”

        Last year, local ministers snatched up all of the available permits for Christmas displays to stop the Klan from getting one. So the white supremacist group held a January rally, where members yelled racial slurs and held a mock lynching.

        Cincinnati Human Relations Commission executive director Cecil Thomas said that type of behavior isn't protected under the First Amendment right of free speech and violates city ordinances.

        Mayor Charlie Luken agreed the Klan caused disturbances, but said the city has repeatedly lost lawsuits filed by Klan members banned from the square.


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