The Gilmer County Courthouse steps in Ellijay, Ga., will be the site of a two-hour Ku Klux Klan rally on Sept. 11, an event that has drawn sharp criticism from the Georgia NAACP.
"The fact that this rally is taking place on the anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Center is reflective of the lack of sensitivity that exists within this organization," said Edward DuBose, Georgia NAACP president.
Who: Knight Riders of the Ku Klux Klan
When: Noon-2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Gilmer County Courthouse, 1 Broad St., Ellijay, Ga.
He called holding the rally on the anniversary of the attacks "an act of terrorism from an organization that is no stranger to terrorist attacks as demonstrated throughout its history."
Dozens of law enforcement personnel will provide crowd control for the rally, and the Gilmer County Sheriff's Office has called on assistance from the Ellijay Police Department and the Georgia State Patrol.
"Our desire is that they come and go without any type of situation occurring," said Gilmer County Lt. Frank Copeland, who has been assigned to coordinate security. "We will be there to protect county property and to protect any citizens that may be there. That's our job."
This is at least the second time the Klan has held a courthouse rally in Ellijay. The last such event, in 2006, drew about 30 Klansmen and spectators, Copeland estimated.
Gregg Wolf, who identified himself by e-mail as a grand dragon of the KKK, declined an interview with the Times Free Press but confirmed there would be a rally. He wouldn't say how many people might attend.
The Knight Riders of the Ku Klux Klan lists an Ellijay address as a regional headquarters.
DuBose called on local leaders to denounce the rally.
County Commission Chairman Mark Chastain said the event was not necessarily welcome in town, but the Klan's right to assemble is protected free speech.
"We Gilmer Countians are peaceful Americans," Chastain said by e-mail. "We did not ask for this event to be held here. We don't approve of racism and hope that the KKK's demonstration is a nonevent. We, however, hold dear the First Amendment and respect the rights of all to peacefully assemble."
The NAACP had no plans Thursday to stage a counter rally in Ellijay, but Lt. Copeland said if anti-Klan protesters attended the event, deputies would keep them and Klansmen separate to avoid any physical confrontations.
In recent years, Ellijay, a town of about 1,500 with mountain vistas, a good apple crop and picture-perfect town square, has promoted itself as a peaceful weekend getaway.
"I don't think you should label a community because something like this happens," Copeland said. "It can happen anywhere. ... This is a safe community with a lot of friendly people ... and everyone is welcome. That's the thing."