Illinois judge affirms Klan’s right to march

Friday, March 6, 1998

A Cook County, Ill., judge on March 5 rejected the town of Cicero’s offer to pay publishing and distribution costs for a Ku Klux Klan newsletter rather than grant the group a permit to hold a public demonstration.

In a ruling which ended a three-day hearing, Circuit Judge Ellis E. Reid ordered town officials to issue the Klan a rally permit, which had previously been denied. Reid said the group must be allowed to exercise its freedom of speech, a right he labeled “paramount.”

Rather than appeal the ruling, town officials and Chicago community organizations announced they would stage events, including a fund-raiser and a citizenship drive, to protest the Klan’s message.

Cicero attorneys told the court KKK marches are associated with violence and would financially burden the Chicago suburb. They had requested the Klan post a minimum cash bond of $100,000, the estimated cost of police protection and city services for the town hall rally.

The Klan, which plans to discuss immigration, crime and gang violence, at the March 14 rally, was aided by American Civil Liberties Union attorneys.

Juan R. Rangel, executive director of the United Neighborhood Organization of Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune the Klan’s presence is a direct threat to the Mexican community in Cicero.

The Klan may have First Amendment rights, “but we don’t have to accept it as a matter of policy,” Rangel said.

The neighborhood group will head the counter demonstration, along with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Chicago Urban League and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish United Fund.

The Tribune reports that the Anti-Defamation League also launched Project Lemonade, a program that raises money for every minute Klan members speak during one of their rallies.