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Saturday, October 23, 1999 Published at 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK

World: Americas

KKK to march unmasked

Police said the white hoods violated a state statute

Members of the Ku Klux Klan are preparing to stage a "White Pride" march in New York despite a court ruling that they cannot rally if they insist on wearing their traditional white masks.

Brian Barron: City lawyers argued that masks promoted violence
Arthur Eisenberg, a lawyer for the New York Civil Liberties Union (NCLU) which represents the Klan, said Friday's appeal court decision would not stop the 50-80 protesters who were planning to rally without masks.

The NCLU filed an 11th-hour appeal on Saturday morning with the US Supreme Court, asking it to overturn the federal court ruling that the rally could only proceed if the protesters showed their faces.

However there was no immediate action from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is responsible for handling such appeals.

Klan members were seeking to start marching through Manhattan on Saturday evening, wearing traditional white robes, hoods and masks.

New York radio journalist Niels Henrikson: "Masks important to Ku Klux Klan"
But on Friday the city denied the Church of the American Knights branch of the KKK a permit to march saying the organisation's white hoods violated a state statute banning groups from gathering in public places wearing masks, except at authorised masquerade parties or other entertainment.

But lawyers for the Klan argued that its members had a right to demonstrate, and that their masks gave them protection.

Rival rally

A rival group - the Partisan Defence Committee - has been given permission to hold a counter-demonstration nearby and they say they will go ahead regardless.

Organiser Scott Stringer said: "The anti-KKK coalition is going forward with our peaceful demonstration ... whether the Klan shows up unmasked or not."

The police had been ordered to serve as a buffer so both groups could exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and expression.

The NCLU has been backing the KKK legal action this week after the city denied the KKK's application for a permit.

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