Friday, October 10, 2003

Lyon Co. gives nod to mask ban

Exceptions would include seasonal events, parties, sporting equipment

The Associated Press

EDDYVILLE, Ky. - Lyon County officials have given initial approval to a proposal to prohibit the wearing of masks in public, a measure that a civil-rights activist called a "good step."

Two weeks ago, dozens of Ku Klux Klan marchers paraded around the courthouse during a rally. None of the marchers wore masks, but the Rev. Louis Coleman said other Klan factions have marched elsewhere with masks.

Lyon County Fiscal County unanimously approved the proposed ordinance on first reading Wednesday. The proposal will get its second reading and final vote next month.

It would ban the Klan and similar groups from wearing masks in public but allow exceptions for seasonal events, theatrical productions, sporting equipment and parties held on private property. Violators face up to a 90-day jail sentence and $250 fine.

The ordinance is modeled after one in Bell County.

"You have taken a good step in ensuring some of the hate in our communities can be dissolved or curbed," Coleman, of the Justice Resource Center in Shelbyville, told Fiscal Court after the vote. "This will decrease this type of activity."

Coleman had urged fiscal court to pass the measure. He said he lobbied for similar laws in other communities after Klan marches.

The Kentucky League of Cities and the Commission on Human Rights say they do not track anti-mask ordinances in Kentucky. But a 1980s report by the commission listed 21 cities and counties with laws banning masks.

"We're trying to prevent problems down the road in case someone wants to wear a mask and hold a rally," Lyon County Judge-executive Jim Boyd said.

Boyd also said the county would have considered the ordinance even if there had not been a recent Klan rally.

Lyon County Attorney Lindell Choat called the anti-mask ordinance a positive step.

"The black population is intimidated by this," he said. "This ordinance is a peacekeeper."

The Dawson Springs-based Imperial Klans of America has said it will return to Eddyville for another rally to protest what leaders says is police harassment of local members and sympathizers.

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