HARMONY, NC (WBTV) - Members of a controversial white rights group are planning to gather in Iredell County and one of the Ku Klux Klan's highest ranking officials says he expects hundreds to attend.
Flyers for the event say the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan will gather for a "whites only" rally on Saturday in the town of Harmony. The event is being billed as a free rally and cross lighting slated as a "white unity event."
The national office for the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is in Eden, North Carolina.
WBTV spoke to Imperial Wizard Chris Barker, the head of the Loyal White Knights, on the phone Wednesday evening. He says the group is expecting between 350 to 400 people at what he calls a "private event."
Harmony is so small that there's not even a traffic light, but down at the fire department a one woman crusade is underway against the KKK.
Martha Estep plans to be outside the building every day between now and Saturday's rally.
"People are still attending KKK meetings, people are still racist, and people don't talk about it publicly," she said.
While published flyers mention the town of Harmony, town leaders are going on the offensive to distance themselves from the event.
Ray Lewis is a town board member and a political pioneer.
"I was aghast first and I couldn't believe it," he said. "The town that I live in. I was the first and the only black that's been on the board of town of Harmony, and I've been on the board for 14 years."
WBTV also spoke with Mayor Joyce Rogers, who weighed in on the planned rally.
"We're very against this coming to our town, because we have a very nice community," Rogers said. "We get along in our community."
The town has just under 600 people and WBTV couldn't find anyone who was connected to the event.
Imperial Wizard Barker told WBTV that the group chose Harmony because a member of the group lives there and has a 20-acre that is private and big enough for the expected crowd.
But Barker wouldn't go into specifics as to where the rally was actually being held. He would only say that the event is slated to start around noon and last until around 10 p.m.
The flyer states for specific rally information, to call the group's 24-hour hotline.
WBTV placed a call to the number listed, which was picked up by a machine. The nearly minute long message stated that the LWK's rallies were not about hate, it was about preserving the white race.
The voice message quoted a Bible verse from Exodus 33:16. It also threw out quotes such as "Save our land, join the Klan," and "If it ain't white, it ain't right."
The rally is expected to end with a "cross lighting at dusk," the flyer states.
When asked about the reasoning behind the cross lighting, Barker says its a ritual that started with the six founding members of the KKK, who would go to the highest point and light a cross so members would know where to meet.
He says it's also a symbol that Christ is the light of the world.
Barker told WBTV that a naturalization ceremony, a swearing in for new members, will also be part of the rally. He says there is expected to be more than 20 new members from North Carolina.
According to Captain Darren Campbell of the Iredell County Sheriff's Office, deputies are aware that the rally is expected to happen in Harmony.
He says staff will be prepared to respond, if law enforcement is needed.
"The Loyal White Knights is a law abiding Christian Organization. We stand for pride in our race; and what our people have done past ,present and future," the website for the Loyal White Knights states. "We stand for freedom of speech, law and Order. We are here to protect our family, race and nation. To exemplify a pure patriotism towards our glorious country."
The Federal Bureau of Investigations considers the KKK a "white supremacy extremist group."
Barker says the FBI can label his organization whatever it wants, but they label themselves as a White Separatist Group.
"The Blacks have the NAACP the Mexicans La Raza and the Jews have the ADL," the website for the Loyal White Knights states. "We whites all across America have the Ku Klux Klan; fighting for a Brighter Whiter America."
He questions why other groups can have organizations for the betterment of their race, but whites can't.
"The KKK has done a lot of good things over the years - helped a lot of people," Barker said. "It's a shame when someone is 'White and Proud' that they get labeled a racist."