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Nineteen Klan Members Stage Rally, Attract Crowd of 400

April 9, 1995 GMT

BENTON, Ill. (AP) _ A weekend rally here by 19 Ku Klux Klan members attracted a crowd of 400.

Some of the onlookers were Klan supporters, some were opponents, and many were merely curious. There were some shouting matches, but no fights.

The Klansmen were driven onto the town square on Saturday by police in vans.

The Klansmen stood behind shields painted with crosses and beneath Confederate flags on the steps of the Franklin County Courthouse. The crowd was about 100 feet away and separated by a fence.

Two Klan members denounced blacks, Jews, other ethnic groups, and homosexuals, as well as liberal politicians and reporters. They said they support law enforcement, and they offered Bible quotations to support their belief in the superiority of whites.

Dennis McGiffen, Grand Dragon of the Knights of the KKK in Illinois, said he thought the rally ``went great.″

``Attracting new members is always a goal at any rally. We welcome their support,″ he said.

One of the crowd members who liked what he heard was Rick Holifield of Sikeston, Mo.

``I think they are right,″ Holifield said. ``I agree with everything they are saying. I came here to find out how we can get them down (to Sikeston).″

About seven students from Austin-Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., felt differently.

``I felt it was important to take a stand. If you don’t come, then you are taking a stand and that’s not the stand I wanted to take,″ said Kayce Lampp, who helped hold a banner opposing the Klan.

Nearly 40 police officers, some wearing riot gear and others accompanied by dogs, were stationed around the rally area. Some were on roof tops of stores around the square.

Thirteen churches were open for prayer on Saturday, attracting small numbers of worshipers.

Nina Dorchinez of Benton was among those who chose to stay away from the rally.

``I’m ashamed of this town. I didn’t want any part of that. It’s a pitiful thing,″ she said.