Rumors of KKK Event Alarmed Bell County City

PINEVILLE, KY -- News that the Ku Klux Klan was planning an event in Pineville this weekend caused some concern, bringing efforts to ensure safety and denunciation of the white supremist group, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Sunday edition.

Groups that espouse racism stir up strong reactions, so Residents and officials denounced the group, Kentucky State Police beefed up patrols and put more officers on standby, and Mayor Bob Madon said he could get the National Guard to town with one phone call. One woman asked Bell County Sheriff Bruce Bennett if she should leave with her young child for the weekend, reports the Herald-Leader.

As it turned out, concerns about provocative public displays by the Klan were unfounded.

Klan members said on a Web site and in e-mails that the event -- including speeches, a cross-burning and, according to one, games such as tug-of-war -- was not planned as a public demonstration, but rather a members-only gathering on private property outside the city limits, reports the newspaper.

That news had spread by Friday -- the day the Klan meeting was to start -- easing concerns about hooded men marching through the streets of the small town or preaching hate from the courthouse steps.

"I'm glad of it. I'd rather not see 'em around here because this is a peaceful little town," Delbert North, 41, said as he worked to repair the battery box on a Chevy van at Elliott's Auto Parts. "I don't know what makes 'em believe the way they do. People's people, regardless of their skin color."

By midday Friday, Pineville Police Chief Bill Matthews' more immediate concern was arranging security for a beauty pageant in town that evening, rep;orts the newspaper,. Local officials said they didn't expect any problems.

Judge-Executive Albey Brock said he felt the only potential for a confrontation was if local people and Klan members bumped into each other and had words. By the end of the work week, some people were questioning whether the purported Klan event was a hoax, the newspaper reports.

By late Saturday afternoon, Benett, Brock and State Police Sgt. Damon Gayheart said there had been no incidents related to the Klan reported and that there'd been no confirmation the group was actually meeting in the county.

Concern over the Klan event came up in late March. The Middlesboro Daily News reported that the Klan would hold an event billed as the first annual "Aryan Bash" in Pineville April 11-13.

The announcement of the event was on a blog of the Appalachian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The posting said other Klan and neo-Nazi groups planned to attend or had been invited, but included no information about what the bash would include, the newspaper reports.

The blog includes a brief profile of a man named Steven Decker. The blog said he is the Imperial Wizard of the Appalachian Knights.

The blog lists the headquarters of the Appalachian Knights KKK as Pikeville, but there is no public telephone listing for a Steven Decker there, and attempts to reach him were not successful. On the blog, he said he would not speak with reporters.

The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which monitors racist and extremist groups in the United States, lists four chapters for the Appalachian Knights: in Pikeville and Caneyville, Ky., and in Logan, W.Va., and Dayton, Ohio, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Copyright - The Lexington Herald-Leader

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