Byline: GORDON JACKSON
NAHUNTA - Cheers and jeers greeted 48 Ku Klux Klan members who, on Saturday, rode into Nahunta for a rally focusing mostly on undocumented immigrants.
The tense but nonviolent event drew a mostly supportive crowd of at least 500, in addition to a major police presence and several dozen protestors. Many in the crowd waved Confederate flags and held children, applauding and shouting "white power" during the two-hour gathering held by the Knight Riders, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
"We are here to tell you, 'Wake up, Georgia, and stop the Latino invasion now,'" Imperial Wizard Jeff Jones said. "I know plenty of people who are willing to work and would do anything right now."
Many supporters said they wanted to hear what the KKK had to say, which included Jones railing against employers' illegal hiring practices, questioning Mexicans' patriotism toward the U.S. and offering a sprinkling of racial slurs.
He encouraged supporters to vote for new leaders.
"Get rid of the people running this country," Jones said. "They're running it into the ground."
Protesters shouted, "You are causing trouble," and "You are haters," during the rally.
Law enforcement reported no incidents of violence during the event. Before the rally began at noon, Nahunta Mayor Ronnie Jacobs expressed concern about the impact the gathering could have on the city of less than 1,000 residents.
"This is going to leave a bad scar on the city," he said. "A lot of people are taking it bad, having them here today."
Jacobs estimated 300 law enforcement officials from surrounding counties, as well as the Georgia State Patrol and the U.S. Department of Justice, were in town to maintain order.
Jacobs said blacks and whites "get along great here" and he had no idea why the KKK chose his town for the rally.
He said City Hall received more than 1,000 calls from as far as California asking for information.
"Some wanted to be part of it," Jacobs said.
Gary Moore, chairman of the Appling County NAACP, said he expected more local KKK supporters would have attended, but for fears it would damage their position in their communities.
"You've got a lot of closet people - businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, judges - that aren't going to jeopardize their livelihoods," Moore said.
He described the Klan's message as propaganda.
"It's a smokescreen to what they believe in their hearts," Moore said. …