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White supremacy group KKK has been given approval to stage an event at historical Gettysburg Park

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Past and present: The KKK say they are the 'ghosts of our Confederate brothers and sisters' who died at the Antietam National Battlefield Past and present: The KKK say they are the 'ghosts of our Confederate brothers and sisters' who died at the Antietam National Battlefield

The Ku Klux Klan has been granted a permit to hold an event at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

The park is a highly symbolic place due to the Battle of Gettysburg, which was fought from July 1 to 3, 1863, between Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War.

The battle involved the largest number of casualties of the entire war and is often described as the war's turning point.

Park officials say the special-use permit was approved for a Maryland-based KKK group to exercise its First Amendment rights on October 5.

The afternoon event will be held on the lawn area north of General George Meade's Headquarters.

Officials say the park has a responsibility to make that land available for citizens to exercise their right to freedom of speech, even if the views expressed are contrary to those of most Americans.

The group held a membership rally earlier this month at the Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg, Maryland, where thousands of people died in a Civil War clash that set the stage for the Emancipation Proclamation.

About 30 people, some in white robes and others in the military-style clothing and swastika armbands of the National Socialist Movement of America, stood next to a farmhouse on the battlefield at the event on September 7.

Some delivered speeches attacking immigrants, blacks and other minority groups.

About 200 federal, state and local officers watched to ensure peace and to act as a buffer between the Klan and about 30 counter-demonstrators.

Antietam carries powerful symbolism, said Gordon Young of the Ku Klux Klan.

'As the Klan, we are the ghosts of our Confederate brothers and sisters who died here,' Young said.

The protest was the third by extremist groups at national parks in the past three years.

Two years ago, the National Socialist Movement demonstrated at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and the same group rallied last year at Colonial Park in Williamsburg, Virginia.

'The Supreme Court has ruled consistently that national parks in particular are places of freedom of expression,' said park superintendent John Howard.

Said Jeffrey Margolies, a counter-demonstrator from the Jewish motorcycle group Semites on Bikes: 'It's disgusting that they would come to sacred ground.'

Union and Confederate forces clashed on September 17, 1862, on a farmland about 40 miles outside Washington during Confederate General Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North.

More than 3,600 men on both sides died that day, and more than 19,000 were wounded or went missing, according to the park service.

The Daily Mail


October 1 2013, 09:54

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