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KKK to protest theme park gay day

KKK to protest theme park gay day

A member of the Ku Klux Klan in eastern Tennessee claims the group will stage a protest outside the Dollywood theme park Saturday when gay and lesbian parkgoers gather for a "Gay Day" event. About 20 protesters carrying banners will demonstrate outside the park, said Randy Gray, a Klansman who has organized rallies and protested at city council meetings in the town of Newport. He said Klansmen will not wear hoods or robes during the protest. Dollywood officials contacted police, who will increase patrols around the park, said Pigeon Forge, Tenn., police chief Jack Baldwin. "I don't foresee any problems, but if we do, we'll just have to deal with it." The protesters will not be allowed on Dollywood property, said park spokesman Pete Owens. Last year's Gay Day event drew about 1,000 people but no protests, said Ryan Salyer, executive director of the Knoxville-based gay, lesbian, and transgender group Tri-Cities Pride, which organized the event. Salyer could not be reached Tuesday for comment. The Gay Day event was involved in a trademark controversy last month when Dollywood lawyers asked the group to stop advertising the event on the Internet as "Gay Day at Dollywood." The group complied. Gray said he learned about the event on the Web site of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate-group monitoring organization. He then posted a message at a white supremacist Web site asking people to join the protest. Gray is a known Klansman in the area, Baldwin said. Gray was recently ejected from a Newport city council meeting for protesting an ordinance designed to keep the Klan from protesting at a Martin Luther King Day event. The ordinance allows only one group to hold a parade or gathering at one time and imposes a $250 fee for permits. The protest is being organized because Gay Day is "totally opposite of what theme parks are for," he said. "Theme parks have always been for families. They're going there, I believe, to rub it in our faces, to be like, 'Ha, ha, we're finally getting our way,' " he said.

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