The Ku Klux Klan, with support from members of various pro-Confederate groups, is planning a protest rally in mid-November in Stone Mountain Park, near Atlanta, at the proposed site of a “Freedom Bell” dedicated to the late Martin Luther King Jr.
The proposed bell, engraved with King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, would sit atop a granite wall – larger than Mount Rushmore – bearing the images of Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis.
The Stone Mountain landmark is in a 3,200-acre state park that is a dedicated Confederate War memorial – a site that’s also hollowed, historic ground to the KKK which has held cross burnings and membership rituals there in decades past.
The protest rally is being promoted on social media by members of the KKK, Sons of Confederate Veterans, the League of the South and assorted Patriot groups, including some which appear to have been created just to promote the Nov. 14 protest rally.
“Please stand with us against the traitors who wish to tarnish our Ancestors Heritage by placing a Monument celebrating Martin L. King on Stone Mountain,” a group calling itself “Defend Stone Mountain” says on Facebook. “MLK has no relevance to our Southern Heritage where our beloved 13 States were forced to fight the Northern Aggressors that attacked us.”
The protest demonstration is being promoted by the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and one of its leaders, Shaun P. Winkler, who has past ties with the Aryan Nations and other KKK groups.
Winkler and other members of the IKKKK showed up last week at a rally at the University of Mississippi to protest a vote on removing the state flag – encompassing the Confederate flag – from the campus in Oxford.
After that rally, someone identifying themself as Winkler posted this on social media: “We are no longer in a time where peacefully waving a flag is going to get a message across. Only by hard action by those of us today will secure a future for tomorrow.”
Winkler, a Pennsylvania-native who emerged in racist circles as an understudy of Aryan Nations founder Richard G. Butler, moved to Mississippi from North Idaho after failing in his attempt to build a new Aryan Nations headquarters. Winkler initially was aligned with Morris Gulett, who claims to be the current Aryan Nations leader, but the two now appear to have split.
Late last year, Winkler called himself the Imperial Wizard the Aryan Nations Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The group hosted “Christmas with the Klan,” a triple cross-burning in Mississippi to raise legal defense funds for Gary Yarbrough.
An imprisoned member of a neo-Nazi terrorist group known as The Order, Yarbrough was denied parole after he posted comments from prison on the racist hate site, Stormfront.
At least one former leader of the International Keystone Klan group has been linked to recent racial violence in Alabama. The hate group claims to have active chapters in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Steven Joshua Dinkle, 28, the former exalted cyclops of the Ozark, Ala., chapter of the Keystone Knights, was sentenced last year to two years in prison for an act of cross-burning intimidation directed at African Americans.
Stone Mountain, the park near Atlanta, now is shaping up to be the new battleground between the KKK, pro-Confederate groups and those promoting ideas to move society away from hate symbols of the past, including the Confederate flag.
In August, members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the neo-Confederate League of the South showed up at Stone Mountain for a pro-Confederate flag demonstration.
“Stone Mountain, which has been a symbol of the Confederacy, is seen as both a rallying point for [Confederate] flag supporters and a target for groups wanting to get rid of it,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in yesterday’s editions.
The Stone Mountain Memorial Association announced last week that it wants to place the “freedom bell” memorial atop Stone Mountain to honor the late civil rights leader.
The plan hasn’t been approved, and opposition is expected, including from Nathan Deal, Georgia’s Republican governor.
“Stone Mountain is set up and preserved by state law as a Confederate memorial,” the Georgia governor said in July. “In fact,’ he continued, “the law that changed the state flag expressly prohibited any changes at Stone Mountain Park.”
Ray McBerry, a spokesman for the Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans, said this week that group may file a lawsuit to stop the construction of a King memorial at the park, the New York Times reported this week.