JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Ku Klux Klansmen said they plan to protest Saturday over what they see as lost Southern symbolism at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, and some students plan to counter-protest the segregationist group.
Shane Tate of Tupelo, grand titan of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said members of his group are unhappy that Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones asked the band to stop playing a pep song after some fans defied Jones' request that they stop chanting "the South will rise again" at the end of the medley.
Earlier this month, Jones asked the band to stop playing "From Dixie With Love," which blends the Confederate anthem, "Dixie," with the Union Army's "Battle Hymn of the Republic."
The band has played the song for about 20 years, but the chant has started only in the past few years. Some fans yell "The South will rise again" in place of "His truth is marching on."
Jones said Nov. 10 that the chan t was associated with "a segregationist movement discredited so many years ago."
Dean of Students Thomas J. "Sparky" Reardon said Friday that the Klan and the opposing student group will be allowed to protest for an hour beginning at 10 a.m., four hours before the Ole Miss-LSU football game. The protests are scheduled to occur near Fulton Chapel in the heart of the campus, near the places football fans will be having tailgate parties.
"Our students have felt the need to say that the group that's coming from outside is not who Ole Miss is," Reardon said. "Ole Miss is what's expressed in the university creed."
The creed says the university values people of all backgrounds, colors, races and beliefs.
Tate told The Commercial Appeal that Klan members will be marching for freedom of speech. He said he expects between 20 and 100 participants.
"This is not a white or black issue at all. It's freedom of speech. They've got a right to say what they want a t the game," Tate told the Memphis, Tenn., newspaper.
Susan Glisson, director of the William Winter Center for Racial Reconciliation at Ole Miss, said the counter-protesters will wear shirts with the slogan, "Turn Your Back on Hate."
"We are supporting them in that effort," Glisson said.
Gov. Haley Barbour does not plan to try to stop any of the demonstrations on campus, his spokesman Dan Turner said Friday.
"They don't have any credibility," Turner said of the Klan. "As long as people don't pay that much attention to them, they'll go away."
Reardon said the Klan and the student group notified the university of their plans to demonstrate.
Asked if university officials had been worried about inviting lawsuits if they had denied permission for a march, Reardon said: "We understand our obligations to the First Amendment and we view that as serious. And, therefore, we're doing what we're doing."
University officials said campus security i s not being increased because of the protests.
Ole Miss has long struggled to separate its modern image from the events of 1962, when two people were killed on campus during a violent response to the court-ordered enrollment of James Meredith as the first black student at the university.
In 1997, student leaders approved a resolution asking Ole Miss fans to stop waving Confederate flags at athletic events. University officials then banned people from bringing sticks into games - a move that dramatically curtailed the decades-long practice of fans carrying the flag.
Jones' predecessor, Robert Khayat, said the Confederate flag had been used by groups such as the Klan and it was not in the university's best interest to use it as a symbol.
Six years ago, Ole Miss officials decided not to have an on-field mascot during sporting events, getting rid of the long-standing Colonel Rebel, a white-haired old man who carries a cane. Some said he resembled a plantat ion owner. At the time, school officials had said they needed a more athletic-looking mascot.