The All Peoples Congress said yesterday it plans to circulate petitions demanding that the federal government stop the Ku Klux Klan from marching in Washington next month.
Sahu Barron, an organizer for the All Peoples Congress, a radical leftist coalition that spearheaded a demonstration against a Klan march over Labor Day weekend, said it plans to present petitions to President Bush in about a month in hopes of persuading the federal government to deny the permits sought by the Klan.
Representatives of several unions and other organizations attending a news conference held on the White House sidewalk voiced support for the effort by the All Peoples Congress.
On Sept. 2, about 40 members of the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of North Carolina rallied on the East Steps of the Capitol after being discouraged by D.C. police from marching on Constitution Avenue, where about 3,000 anti-Klan demonstrators had gathered. D.C. police said at the time that the situation was too volatile to allow the Klan to march.
The following week, Klan leader Virgil Griffin said he believed his First Amendment rights had been violated and vowed to return. The Klan has applied for permits from the National Park Service, D.C. and Capitol police for a march and rally on Oct. 28. The Park Service said it is prepared to issue the permit. The D.C. and Capitol police said they are processing the applications.
Mary Jane DeFrank, executive director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said they knew of no case where a group had been prevented from exercising its First Amendment rights as the result of a petition drive.
The ACLU sent an official to monitor negotiations between the Klan and various police agencies earlier this month.
"We abhor the racism as espoused by the Klan," said DeFrank. "However, there is a First Amendment right to free speech and we represent even those groups and individuals we are in disagreement with. Free speech is meaningless if the government can pick and choose which group can and cannot speak."