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Knights plan rally in Waco

Nov. 2, 1999

By John Drake

Staff Writer

The Church of the American Knights will have a rally in front of the McLennan

County Court House in Waco at 2 p.m. Saturday to protest the federal

government+s actions during the Branch Davidian standoff in April 1993.

The white separatist group, which is the largest organization in the world

associated with the Ku Klux Klan, is calling the April 1993 siege on the

compound the 'Waco holocaust.'

'We feel that the government has no right to destroy anybody because of their

religious beliefs,' said Rev. Jeffrey Berry, national imperial wizard of the

American Knights. 'The government has no business committing violence against

its citizens.'

While the organization has stressed their rally will not address race, at

least one student does not put much faith in that statement.

'Anytime the Klan comes in their costumes, they represent something and that

is racism in this country,' said David Ocamb, a Midwest City, Okla. sophomore

and president of the Young Democrats. 'They represent racism and intolerance

in American society and that needs to be fought against.'

His organization is planning a counter-demonstration to protest the American

Knights' appearance.

'We are planning to meet together to do a rally against hate speech and people

who are not going to be accepting and caring of all individuals today,' he

said. 'Within the organization, we have the support of all of our membership.

We believe it's a unifying cause that all of the campus can believe in.'

Berry said those who would protest the Klan even when they have said they are

not going to address race should stop and listen.

'They have a right to believe that, (but) how are they going to know if

they're out there yelling and cursing? You learn more by listening than you do

by running your mouth.'

George Oliver, a Huntsville sophomore, said the Klan is indeed sending a

message by speaking on the Branch Davidians, but not necessarily the one they

have stated.

'I think it's offensive to the people who have died,' Oliver said. 'One-third

of those people were minorities. If anything, it's a bit of a statement of

inconsistency on their part.

'Nobody believes what they are saying. They don't have to come to Waco to

protest the government. As diverse as Waco is, they come to start trouble.'

The American Knights are no strangers to protestors.

In a recent rally in New York, fewer than two dozen Klan participants were

drowned out by a massive showing of counter-demonstrators. The small showing

of members was a direct effect of a court order that they could not wear their

signature masks during the rally.

'It's dangerous to be unmasked,' said an officer with the Texas Realm of the

American Knights who identified herself as Mrs. Mary. 'This case in New York

is going to be taken to the Supreme Court. Their right to be there was not

taken away even though the freedom of speech and expression was taken away

from them, in essence.'

The American Knights said they will be in their regular attire Saturday,

including white robes and masks.

The student chapter of the NAACP originally intended to launch a large-scale

counter-demonstration but later abandoned the idea. Oliver, a founder of the

organization, attributed this to a lack of interest and time.

'There was just not adequate time to get the type of movement going that we

wanted,' he said. 'We wanted to make it a community effort rather than just

Baylor NAACP. We were trying to get some of the local churches, civic

organizations and others in the community.'

The NAACP's Waco chapter was one of the groups asked to participate.

'They didn't present any dissent, but that was about it,' Oliver said. 'Their

interest is in other things.'

Since deciding against a protest, the NAACP has shifted its focus to prayer.

'Prayer is the message that NAACP wants out,' Oliver said. 'Pray over these

people that their thought will go away because it+s a regressive thought and

it's not helpful; it's harmful.'

Ironically though, the group for which they are praying professes Christianity

as a basis for its ideas.

'We're an unpopular religious and political belief,' Mrs. Mary said. 'The

reason we are protesting is the killing of these people. It could have been us

just as well.'

Berry tried to distance himself from racial issues.

'The Klan is not against blacks,' he said. 'The Klan is about equal rights for

everybody. They were denied their rights of religious beliefs and the

government just went in there and slaughtered them.'