- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

SHARPSBURG, Md. (AP) — Antietam National Battlefield, site of the Civil War’s bloodiest one-day battle, will become a setting for racism resistance tomorrow when a free music festival is held there to counter a nearby Ku Klux Klan rally.

Local residents organized the event, with eight bands playing a variety of music all afternoon, in hopes of drawing people away from the white-supremacist gathering in Sharpsburg.

“We hope to give youth an alternative to the Klan event, which targets young people,” said Shannon French of South Mountain Community Outreach, a coalition of local residents and business owners that formed in July in response to the planned KKK gathering.

The group received a $2,000 grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center, of Montgomery, Ala., which helps communities respond to hate crimes and hate groups.

“It’s a really awesome thing that they were able to identify the youth as a group that may be impacted by this,” Tafeni English, the center’s outreach coordinator, said Wednesday.

Miss English said that community silence about hate groups can send the wrong message. “They feel like, if I’m just quiet, it will go away. But silence increases the activity by the hate group,” she said.

South Mountain Community Outreach also will hold an interfaith morning worship service at the battlefield’s Dunker Church. In addition, the group will sponsor a prayer vigil and multicultural dance performance tomorrow in nearby Keedysville.

The World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan obtained a permit from the Town of Sharpsburg in July for a 1 p.m. march followed by a rally in a town park. Local KKK leader Gordon Young, of Hagerstown, said he expects about 100 participants, including members of the National Alliance, Maryland Skinheads, Keystone State Skinheads, Aryan Nation and Southern White Knights.

Speakers will address homosexual “marriage,” affirmative action, gun control and immigration, he said.

Mr. Young said that the KKK, associated with violent intimidation of blacks in the 1960s, is now “more of a political group to protect white rights.”

Antietam Chief Ranger Ed Wenschhof said the coalition’s request to use the battlefield was handled like any other special-use permit. It is the 32nd such permit this year, he said.

Extra rangers will patrol the battlefield tomorrow in coordination with other law-enforcement agencies, he said.

The Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, was the bloodiest day of fighting on U.S. soil. A total of 23,110 soldiers from the North and South were killed, wounded or declared missing there Sept. 17, 1862.

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