- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2005

MASON, Mich. — He has thousands of dollars worth of history tucked away in a storeroom, but Gary Gray cannot peddle it.

That’s because it’s Ku Klux Klan and Nazi memorabilia.

Three times already before last week, Mr. Gray had an auctioneer who was willing to help sell it but who then was forced out by protesters who thought selling the artifacts was akin to endorsing the activities they embodied.

The fourth and final blow came over the weekend when an unidentified party distributed Klan recruitment literature around this 7,000-population town outside Lansing. Around 50 blacks live here, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

Mr. Gray and the fourth auction site concurred that the sale had become too divisive.

“I have no objection to the selling of historical artifacts, which is why we decided to allow them to use our building,” said David Feintuch, who owns Cobblestone Events Center, where the auction was to have been held.

But shortly after Mr. Feintuch learned of the recruitment literature, he and Mr. Gray huddled and, under pressure from some town leaders, called the whole thing off.

“We are very pleased with their decision to cancel,” Mayor Robin Naeyaert said Saturday at a sparsely attended press conference, held on the condition that Mr. Gray not be seen on camera with the officials.

The auction was expected to draw 500 people, a handful of protesters and a slew of gawkers. Mr. Gray believes that the literature was distributed clandestinely by foes of the auction rather than by a Klan affiliate.

“This is a setback for people who enjoy American history,? Mr. Gray said. ?I look at it like this: I don’t support the practice of witchcraft, I’m a Christian. But I support the idea of selling witchcraft books.”

The success of a January auction of similar items at Mr. Gray’s facility in Howell, Mich., about 50 miles west of Detroit, drew well — despite the opposition of civic leaders and the presence outside of about a dozen protesters, mostly students.

The auction brought in $24,000 and prompted other parties with Klan, Nazi and similar memorabilia to contact Mr. Gray.

Sunday’s proposed auction included many items from the estate of a man named Robert Miles, a former grand dragon of the Michigan Klan chapter who lived outside Detroit and died in 1992.

Mr. Gray noted that he has sold thousands of items for estates, from NASCAR trinkets to comic books to antique glassware.

“This stuff we have now to sell is real history, it’s part of America,” he said. “We have about 20 [Klan] robes, a signed photo that [then-Alabama Gov.] George Wallace sent to Miles. A framed photo of Hitler, knives from the KKK. Miles had a huge collection of Bibles, too. All this was ready to go and we would have made thousands.”

Mr. Gray said he will likely try to sell the merchandise piecemeal or on Internet auction sites.

The Michigan American Civil Liberties Union declined to comment on Mr. Gray’s situation, although the national group in 1994 defended the Klan’s right to participate in a Missouri “Adopt-a-Highway” program.

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