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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 16, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 24
Klan crashes Equality March in Alabama
Section One
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Klan crashes Equality March in Alabama

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

While in most places the June 11 Equality Marches and other Pride month events went on without incident, in Florence, Alabama, the Ku Klux Klan crashed the party, leaving attendees 'shocked and then embarrassed,' in the words of a local LGBT rights activist.

'It was just crazy,' Benjamin Newbern, executive director of Equality Shoals, told the AL.com website.

'This was a huge day for the LGBTQ community, with the fact that nothing like this had happened before, with members of the LGBTQ community marching in the streets here.

'Hate has always been here, but it reared its ugly head yesterday to show that it's still around.'

Florence is a town of some 39,000 residents in northwest Alabama, and it's the location of the University of North Alabama. The June 11 march was the town's first-ever LGBT event.

According to Newbern, 200 people marched and another 100 attended. So did 10 Klansmen in robes and other 'regalia.'

Police arrived as well and kept the two sides separate, so there were no violent incidents reported.

Some participants in the march said they were annoyed that Facebook posts by the Florence Police Department made no distinction between them and the Klan.

'Two sides, opposing views. Peaceful rally. Our duty and honor to provide security and ensure the safety of both groups,' said one of the department's Facebook posts.

Will Cross, a member of the Equality Shoals board of directors, expressed surprise that the department would make such statements.

'That's very odd, because that group to me is based on hatred and is like a terrorist group to me,' Cross said. 'I don't think there should be an equivalence there, because we paid and got permits and hired police officers, and they just kind of showed up trying to scare people.'

Both Cross and Newbern said that the police had been helpful in preventing confrontations between Pride marchers and Klansmen.

Pride organizers said the main point of the event was to show that LGBT people and their allies were able to march peacefully and join together in solidarity and celebration.

'Honestly, I'm really impressed that as many people showed up as did, especially in our small town, where it's typically really conservative. I was also really impressed that there were tons of families and small children there with signs saying things like 'I support my Gay child,' Cross said.

'We just wanted to have a sister march to the national marches happening all across the nation.'

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