A chapter of the Ku Klux Klan is planning to gather in southern Lancaster County this weekend in what could be the largest gathering of the hate group here in years.
The East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire is planning to hold a cross lighting on a property in the southern part of the county, an official of the group told LNP when contacted by phone. He would not identify himself.
The event was mentioned in an online forum at the website of a group called Stormfront. A later post says the event will be held in Quarryville.
Quarryville police Chief Kenneth Work said his department was made aware of the posts several weeks ago.
"At this point, we have no concrete information that any group is coming, certainly not to Quarryville Borough," he said Monday.
The Klan official said he expects between 100 and 200 people will attend the invitation-only event. He declined to provide the address of the home, citing that it's a "closed ceremony."
The event will include the lighting of a 30-foot metal cross, he said.
Concern but no reason to panic
Southern Poverty Law Center spokesman Ryan Lenz said thousands of KKK-related events take place in the U.S. annually, and it's impossible to track them all.
"These sorts of things, they come into a community and they scare the hell out of everyone," he said.
In September 2001, a planned KKK rally in Lancaster city was called off. According to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the KKK may have met on a Quarryville farm the month before.
"We know very little about the rally in Quarryville," spokeswoman Ann Van Dyke told the Lancaster New Era in a Sept. 7, 2001, article. "There were 15 to 20 cars in a private rally on a farm on White Oak Road. The next week, the Klan flag was still waving over the farm. It is our belief it was American Knights."
A few dozen Klan members marched in Lancaster in August 1991.
A KKK rally in Ephrata Township in October 1987 drew more than 1,000 counter-demonstrators combined in Lancaster and Ephrata, according to an Associated Press article published on Oct.3 of that year.
Lentz said the East Coast Knights of the Invisible Empire formed in 2013. He said the group's activities so far consists of cross-burnings and social events.
According to its website, the group is based in Rising Sun, Maryland, which is about 20 miles southeast of Quarryville.
Asked why Lancaster County was chosen for Saturday's rally, the East Coast Knights official said the homeowner where the event is planned is a new member and offered to host.
"There's reason for concern," Lenz said, but "I don't think there's a reason for panic."
Response to planned rally
A Franklin & Marshall professor and an equality activist are hosting a teach-in Friday in response to the planned KKK rally.
"The threat of it is credible," Amanda Kemp, author and Franklin & Marshall College professor told LNP Tuesday.
Workshops on racial inequality, white supremacy and bias will be held at 8 a.m., noon, 4:30 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. at First Reformed United Church of Christ, 40 E. Orange St.
"We decided to use the alarm that spreads in the community when the Klan says it's going to come to draw people out to come to something who may have a concern but maybe not a lot of background knowledge," said Kemp, who organized the workshops with Nick Miron.
Kemp said she had been thinking about holding the workshops for some time. Learning about the planned KKK rally gave her the momentum to make it happen, she said.
Uptick in Klan activity
Work said his department has been in contact with the Lancaster County District Attorney's office and state police about the planned KKK rally.
District attorney's office spokesman Brett Hambright said the office is aware of the event but cannot confirm its legitimacy.
“We are aware and have had discussions with police, etc. on a proactive plan to ensure everyone's safety,” Hambright said in an email Tuesday.
State police are not aware of plans for a rally, according to spokesman Trooper James Spencer.
“Klan groups pop up all the time. They pop up and disappear," Lenz said. "They're perpetually changing.”
Lenz said the Southern Poverty Law Center has seen tremendous energy in KKK groups recently.
“For the past few years we've seen a tremendous uptick not only in online rhetoric but also in real world activism across the country.”