Judge issues stay in DNR's decision against Klan

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 | 6:03 p.m. CDT

KANSAS CITY — A federal court hearing has been scheduled in the case of a Ku Klux Klan group that was denied a permit for a gathering at a historic site after a state agency found its literature contained "historical inaccuracies."

Frank Ancona, imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, filed a lawsuit seeking an emergency order to overrule the Department of Natural Resources' rejection of his application to rent a pavilion at the Fort Davidson Historic Site in southeast Missouri.

U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel in St. Louis issued a temporary restraining order last week against the DNR decision.

"To me it's a pretty clear, cut-and-dried viewpoint discrimination case that's just not allowed by the First Amendment," said Anthony Rothert, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri. The ACLU is representing the Klan group in the case.

"I am baffled that they think this is constitutional," Rothert said Tuesday.

The preliminary injunction hearing on the DNR's decision to refuse the permit has been scheduled for Friday. But Rothert said he has asked for continuance on the hearing until April 30.

In issuing the 10-day restraining order April 14, Sippel said he wouldn't bar the Klan group from renting a pavilion at the Fort Davidson Historic Site, about 70 miles southwest of St. Louis.

But Sippel said the group had to follow DNR rules, one of which requires $2 million in liability insurance for special events, according to DNR spokesman Judd Slivka.

The Klan group wasn't able to come up with the required insurance by the date of the event, scheduled for April 17, Ancona said. Instead, the group held its picnic on private property about 40 miles away, he said.

Ancona said his group intends to seek another permit for a similar gathering at the site.

"The state of Missouri ran the clock out on us," Ancona said Tuesday. "They tried to classify the barbecue as a special event ... They said there would be interaction with the public.

"The only thing we were doing is having a barbecue and having informational fliers about the historic site."

When the DNR originally denied the Klan group's permit request March 23, the DNR cited the group's desire to have a Confederate flag flying at the historic site and to present information claiming the Confederate flag had been removed from the state historic site.

The DNR said in a letter to the ACLU that the Confederate battle flag was never flown at the site.

The DNR also said the flag depicted on the Klan group's flier was an Army of Northern Virginia unit flag.

"These and other historical inaccuracies render the proposed public event inconsistent with the historical mission and purpose of the Fort Davidson State Historic Site," the DNR letter said.

Ancona, a self-employed contractor from the Potosi area, said the flag depicted on the group's flier wasn't meant to refer to the exact flag that flew at Fort Davidson, a Union post during the Civil War.

"It was just a graphic that someone put on a flier," he said. "It wasn't meant to be historically accurate."


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