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KKK, opponents
demonstrate over Texas same-sex marriage ban

KKK, opponents
demonstrate over Texas same-sex marriage ban

A showdown over a proposed Texas constitutional ban on same-sex marriage pitted a small Ku Klux Klan group against a massive rally by opponents Saturday in Austin. Only about a dozen members of the American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan appeared at Austin City Hall for the group's "pro-family values" rally. None wore the traditional hoods or robes of the white supremacist group. Some displayed Confederate flag symbols. "Let's meet their hate with love and understanding," Glen Maxey, an openly gay former legislator and a leader of the counterdemonstration, told hundreds of opponents as they marched toward the Klan event. At issue was Proposition 2, a proposed constitutional amendment on Tuesday's election ballot stating that marriage in Texas is only the union of a man and a woman. "We're asking Texans to support Proposition 2 because God supports it, not because the KKK supports it," said Steven Edwards, the grand dragon of the Klan group. Maxey, director of No Nonsense in November, an anti-Prop 2 campaign organization, said Tuesday's vote is important but that changing Texans' minds about discrimination is more important. An estimated 3,000 protesters showed up during the Klan event, said Austin Police Department spokeswoman Toni Chovanetz. Two people were arrested. One was carrying a club and causing a disturbance, and another was arrested on outstanding warrants, Chovanetz said. The city blocked off several streets to keep members of the public at least a block away from the Klan in all directions. A contingent of 200 police officers--some of them wearing riot gear and at least one toting a rifle--stood along police barricades and patrolled the area. Many anti-Klan demonstrators carried yellow daisies, sang peace songs, and chanted anti-Klan slogans. Some held banners or signs that said, "Vote Against Bigotry," "Vote Against the Klan," and "Killers, Kowards, Kooks Go Away." Some social conservatives who are actively supporting Proposition 2 made it clear they weren't associated with the Klan event. The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying it "hopes all Texans will understand the significance of an organization with a history of hatred and bigotry supporting a discriminatory amendment." Austin mayor Will Wynn and other city leaders had declared Saturday a "day of tolerance" and urged that citizens stay away from the Klan and do community work instead. But many came to speak their minds and get a glimpse of a faction of the white supremacist group that got its start in Texas in the 1860s. Ronda Swain, 25, said she was curious because she'd heard her mother speak of segregation and violence toward blacks when her mother was growing up in North Carolina. She spoke by cell phone with her mother, Rose Horton of Austin, describing the Klan scene to her. "It's, like, making it real for me that these people really still exist," Swain said. (AP)

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