Mayor: Madison doesn’t want to be identified with Klan group

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The mayor of an Indiana city is distancing his community from a local Ku Klux Klan group that is planning a rally in Ohio this month, saying the city doesn’t “stand for any kind of hate.”

The Facebook page for the Honorable Sacred Knights lists a post office box in Madison, Indiana — population about 12,000 — as contact information.

Madison Mayor Damon Welch said Wednesday that authorities in the Indiana city think there are only three or four members of the Honorable Sacred Knights who live in Jefferson County, Indiana. He said he doesn’t want the public to think there’s a large Klan-affiliated group located in the southeast Indiana city, which is the county seat.

“We don’t stand for any of what they put out,” he said.

The Honorable Sacred Knights wrote in an email Wednesday that the group now has “closer to 25 members.”

“We don’t expect for the city to approve of us,” the email stated.

The Klan group has said previously that its planned May 25 rally in Dayton, around 120 miles northeast of Madison, is not about hate. Earlier this week, the group and Dayton city officials reached an agreement that will bar the group from wearing paramilitary or tactical gear and carrying assault rifles, bats or shields. The group’s members also can’t carry flame throwers or knives. They can carry certain firearms with permits and cover their faces.

Only those associated with the group will be allowed at the Courthouse Square rally site, and Dayton police will be on hand to control their entrance and exit from the site, Dayton city attorney Barbara Doseck said Monday. Police may shut down the rally if members fail to comply with the terms of the consent decree, she said.

The Klan is a particularly sensitive topic in Indiana, which has struggled to shrug off the group’s historical association. The organization often dominated local politics in parts of Indiana in the 1920s, with some estimates indicating that one-quarter of the white men born in Indiana were members.

Welch called Madison “a nice little tourist town” recognized for being a “Stellar Community” in Indiana.

“We have a lot of festivals, and a lot of people come in here to look at our architecture and our riverfront.”

The state’s Stellar Communities program recognizes smaller communities and regions that identify comprehensive and collaborative plans for community and economic development, according to the Indiana Office of Rural and Community Affairs website.

Welch said the Klan group has held a rally in Madison once a year for about the last three years, but those rallies usually only draw roughly 12 to 14 Klan group members. They draw more people from out-of-state, especially those who come to protest the rally, he said.

Madison authorities have prevented any problems from arising at the rallies with barricades and other measures, but it’s very expensive, the mayor said.

He said the city encourages people not to attend the group’s rallies, even in protest.

“They’re looking for publicity, and we don’t want to give them that,” he said. “But at the same time, you can't stop them from free speech.”

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