Re-enactors plan counter-protest, community members offer alternative event
Daily Record/Sunday News

Jul 16, 2006 — The 37th Texas Cavalry plans to send the World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan a loud message by saying very little.

When the cavalry gathers Sept. 2 to counter the Klan’s protest at Gettysburg National Military Park, re-enactors dressed in Confederate garb will march and turn their backs on the Klan in "true Confederate military style," said Bob Harrison, first sergeant with the cavalry.

"We want to do something that sticks into a lot of minds," Harrison said.

He said that he hopes for about 50 people, including members of his organization as well as Sons of the Confederate Veterans, United Daughters of the Confederacy and others, to turn up for the counter-protest.

The Klan has obtained a permit to demonstrate to protest the Iraq war as well as promote white unity in the north and south, according to Klan leader Gordon Young. He has said Civil War battlefields are an appropriate place for the Klan to rally, because its members are "ghosts of the Confederacy."

But Harrison said the cavalry wants to make a "very strong statement that Confederate history is not a racist thing. It encompasses people of every ethnicity, color and hue."

While not denying the Klan’s First Amendment right to hold its demonstration, Harrison said his group hopes to show that the Klan’s "mentality and platform are not representative of Confederate history and are not representative of anybody in the South."

The cavalry is the only group to apply for a permit to hold a counter-protest at the battlefield as of Thursday, but several community members have joined to organize a Community Unity Event to be held at the Gettysburg Recreation Park the same day.

"We are the main event that day," said the Rev. Judith Guasch, president of the Gettysburg Ministerium and one the organizers. "Hopefully, people will choose to go there and enjoy the unity of the Adams County area versus listening to someone spew hate."

Guasch said the organizers are working with borough officials and the U.S. Department of Justice. The event will be a "community-focused day," she said, and include no-cost or low-cost activities, which are still being planned.

"It’s to let people know that Adams County is a unified area," Guasch said, and its residents are "a peaceful kind of people."

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