A small band of robed Ku Klux Klansmen, outnumbered two to one by newspaper and television reporters from as far away as New York City, preached bigotry, danced around a burning cross and dispersed without incident Saturday night, laying to rest fears that Frederick County's first KKK rally would lead to violence.
"It was very calm and we made no arrests," said Maryland State Police Lt. Grover Sensabaugh, who deployed more than 65 state troopers and county sheriffs around the sloping six-acre field behind the Braddock Heights firehouse in the heart of this ridgetop town. "I'd been predicting it the way it came out. If it hadn't I'd have been crucified."
The rally, which had been opposed by the 1,500 residents of this old resort community as well as people in Frederick four miles to the east, drew about 200 people, according to police.
Those who weren't Klan sympathizers, curiosity-seekers or undercover agents, were media representatives who descended on the predominantly young audience for interviews. Meanwhile, a parade of Klan dragons and wizards at a podium spoke about Communists and blacks, blaming the latter for many modern ills.
State police said they were somewhat mystified why the Klan's "recruiting rally," which was similar in both substance and size to past rallies in nearby Carroll County, spawned such broad coverage, including New York-based television network reporters.
"To come all the way from New York to cover a bunch of Klansmen jumping around a pole . . . I was surprised," said Lt. Sensabaugh.
But concern over the rally, which followed a violent encounter between Klansmen and communists in Greensboro,N.C. last November, had been building since March in both Braddock Heights and Frederick, where many black families stayed inside for the evening.
"We stuck around the house and played cards," said 15-year-old Alfie Scott. "We don't usually do that."
"The police were very conspicuous," said 28-year-old Eddie Cleaver. "I been here all my life. The quiet was eerie."
Bells tolled at 16 acre churches and many ministers led prayer vigils during the three-hour Klan rally. In Braddock Heights a number of families had sent their children away, cordoned off their yards and put up no-trespassing signs.
But at nightfall, many stood in the crowd to watch the spectacle of flames consuming a rag-wrapped, 40-foot-cross. Klansmen, some of whom held hickory ax-handles, chanted "white power."