In Abbeville this weekend, members of the New Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan will gather for what’s being billed as a two-day KKK Jam.
In response, in Greenville on Saturday, several groups are planning a rally to talk about unity and love.
“A lot of folks think we have moved past that here,” said Ivy Hill, one of the organizers of the Unity Rally Against Hatred. “Maybe here in the South we haven’t completely. There are stages of moving past it.”
Hill said that’s why holding such a rally is important, to get people talking to each other, to find the common ground among people.
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The rally will be held at the Hughes Main Library at 3:30 p.m. The keynote speaker is Lecia Brooks, the outreach director for the Southern Poverty Law Center and the director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says 20 organizations it considers hate groups operate in South Carolina and the New Empire Knights is one.
Yet Klan groups no longer have the power and ties to power they had in the 1920s and 1960s, said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.
While there are 27 Klan organizations across the United States, the membership is probably no more than 6,000 nationally, he said.
Chuck Murray, the imperial wizard for the New Empire Knights, according to the group’s website, didn’t respond to an email seeking an interview about the Klan event, which is to be held on his property in Abbeville and is open only to members and their families.
The organization’s website said the event is a social time, with speeches from leaders, food, music, a Sunday sermon and Sunday night cross lighting, which he describes as a religious ceremony.
According to the website, Murray worked for the state for about two decades, and since he is retired he can devote his time to building the New Knights, which is based in Abbeville and has chapters in 19 states, including most of those on the East Coast, some in the Midwest and Arizona and California. It also claims to have members in England and Brazil.
He said he has been married for 23 years, has three children, one of whom recently had a child. “I love my life in Abbeville, S.C.,” he said. “I spend my free time reading the Bible, hunting, fishing and camping. I love the outdoors and nature.”
Murray is one of the founders of the New Knights, which organized in 2013. The website says the organization isn’t a hate group, but an organization whose mission is to stand up for white people. Although the website says the primary threat to whites are Jews, there is a page that lists more than 100 reasons blacks are inferior to whites.
“True Klan groups are not haters of these races,” he said on the website. “We are simply trying to preserve the white race. You can be pro-white and not a hater.”
The website says only male Christians can join the Empire Knights.
“You live your life based on the values of Jesus. This means practicing good faith, doing charity and not abusing booze or drugs,” he said.
He believes the Klan’s mission was skewed in the 1960s by some groups which killed “innocent men, women and children,” the website says.
On the website, he said, “The Klan is everywhere.”
“The chance of someone knowing a Klansman is practically non-existent,” he said. And the typical rally like the one in Abbeville involves a dozen people, he said.
Asked about the Greenville Unity Rally, Potok said while still small in number, “Anti-racists will certainly outnumber the Klan rally.”