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Chief: Police tried to limit Klan parade's time in Roxboro

Posted December 5, 2016

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— Police Chief David Hess on Monday defended his department's decision to escort a convoy organized by the Ku Klux Klan through Roxboro, saying officials wanted to get the group out of town as quickly as possible.

The Klan paraded in about 20 vehicles through Roxboro on Saturday afternoon, waving Confederate flags as they purportedly celebrated Donald Trump's election as president.

Although the group posted weeks ago on social media about a Dec. 3 parade, no location was ever provided. Hess said during a Monday news conference that police were given about an hour's notice that the Klan convoy planned to drive through Roxboro, giving them no time to notify the community.

Hess said he suggested a route that would limit the exposure of Roxboro residents to the group, but there weren't enough officers available on short notice to handle it. Fearing "the propensity for violence" would go up if cars in the convoy stopped or became separated from others, he said, the decision was made to get them through Roxboro quickly.

"Our actions were to quickly facilitate their departure without allowing the opportunity for physical harm to anyone," he said.

An unmarked car from another law enforcement agency that Hess declined to identify was used to escort the convoy through town, and a Roxboro officer was in that lead car, he said. Other officers blocked some intersections to keep the Klan parade moving.

"We do not support this group's positions. As a police department, we are required to uphold their constitutional rights, which is what we did," he said.

Louise Wright-Oliver said she accepts Hess' explanation for the police department's actions.

"I understand how you have to keep the peace for the community, and I understand the chief's thinking that he has to maintain control," Wright-Oliver said.

But April Short said she was taunted by the convoy and doesn't like the fact that they came to her town.

"People were honking the horn at me. They were yelling slurs," Short said.

Hess said he doesn't know why Roxboro was chosen for the Klan parade, and he was clearly upset that it was.

"The raw emotions of anger, hate and pain that the words KKK invoke is one shared by me, the leaders of the city, the police department and others in the community," he said. "We understand the outrage of some in our community because this group was here. The citizens of Roxboro do not promote hate but embrace love."

A candlelight prayer vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at New Mount Zion Baptist Church, at 305 Walker St., to bring the community together.

Authorities said they don't believe anyone from Roxboro participated in the parade, and Hess asked anyone with video of the event to provide it to police. He said local and federal authorities would review any video to determine whether any actions occurred that would warrant filing ethnic intimidation or hate crime charges.

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