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What if They Gave a Klan Rally and Nobody Came?

They really ought to call them the Ku Klutz Klan.

This Saturday, the Church of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan — a once-powerful organization that in 1960 coordinated more than 1,000 simultaneous cross burnings in a frightening display of Southern resistance to desegregation — held a rally in Gloverdale, S.C. It was attended by a single Klansman: state leader Tim Bradley.

Not making an appearance were the 1,000 people from four states that a confederate of Bradley’s had predicted. A promised speech never materialized, only endless rounds of Bradley giving interviews to local reporters while some 100 curiosity-seekers looked on. And the 30 or so Klansmen who Bradley said were headed to the rally that day? Well, they got lost on the way from North Carolina. Bradley kept telling reporters his comrades were about to arrive. But they never did.

Even the “rally” that did occur was something of a miracle. Earlier, the group planned to gather in a different location — but a local church had already reserved that park. Then, Bradley shifted the date in a bid to work out another location. Later, a local shopping center forbade the Klansmen from meeting prior to the rally in its parking lot, issuing a letter saying anyone there with “Ku Klux Klan, confederate, southern heritage or racist paraphernalia” would be arrested.

It was hardly the first time that the National Knights, a group that has developed a reputation as the Keystone Kops of white supremacy, was embarrassed. In 2001, protesters rained down debris on the heads of Klansmen after a rally outside South Bend, Ind. The retreating Klansmen had forgotten where they parked their cars.

A year later, in late 2002, National Knights Imperial Wizard Railton Loy held a “Christmas unity rally” on his son’s Osceola, Ind., farm. They had hoped to bring together different factions of the radical right but managed to forget that many of the attendees were adherents of the anti-Semitic theology of Christian Identity, which says whites are the real Hebrews of the Bible and therefore can't eat pork. They served an undercooked roast pig, disgusting many of their horrified visitors. At the same gathering, visitors noticed that Loy’s son, Rick Loy, had a swollen lip and two missing front teeth. It turned out someone had given him a riot shield alleged to be bulletproof. The younger Loy put the matter to a test, firing a close-range shot at the shield. Unsurprisingly, a bullet fragment ricocheted off the shield and hit him in the mouth. Finally, attempts to burn a swastika and a cross at the rally ended in miserable failure; neither of the symbols wanted to stand up straight.

Despite the antics of the National Knights — a group that Bradley spent Saturday insisting was not racist in any way — it remains a potentially violent and dangerous group. In 2003, member Glen Gautier confessed his role in the brutal murder of another member, triggering state and federal investigations. In the end, another two members of the National Knights pleaded guilty in connection with a plot to blow up the Johnston County, N.C., courthouse and kill the local sheriff there.

After completing his one-man show, Bradley — who at one point shook hands with two black high school students doing a project on the Klan —decided the rally had been a success. Without any evidence to back him up, and pretty much everything seeming to contradict him, he said the rally had netted him 27 new members.

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