ATLANTA -- Two Ku Klux Klan factions and 11 individuals were ordered Tuesday to pay nearly $1 million in damages to 53 civil rights marchers who were pelted by rocks and bottles during a 1987 'Brotherhood March' in predominantly white Forsyth County.
U.S. District Judge Charles Moye Jr. ordered the Southern White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan to pay $400,000 each in punitive damages.
Klan leader David Holland was ordered to pay $50,000 punitive damages and Klan leaders Edward Stephens, Daniel Carver and Marion Franklin Shirley were ordered to pay $30,000 each. Seven other defendants were ordered to pay $1,000 or $2,000 apiece.
Each plaintiff will receive $50 in compensatory damages from the defendants.
A defense lawyer for some of the Klansmen said the verdict, returned Oct. 5 but not unsealed until Tuesday, would be appealed.
There were 57 plaintiffs in the original suit charging the Klansmen conspired to violate the civil rights of the brotherhood marchers who were attacked Jan. 17, 1987, near downtown Cumming.
But Atlanta City Councilman Hosea Williams, who led the bloody march and was a lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, and three others dropped out of the action shortly before the jury returned its verdict.
Williams said he decided to withdraw from the class-action suit because 'if we truly believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ and are truly committed to the non-violent legacy left to us by Martin Luther King Jr., then we must forgive and extend love to the KKK and other white supremacists who so viciously attacked our Forsyth County Brotherhood March.'
A federal court jury found that the Ku Klux Klan and individual defendants violated the civil rights of marchers who attempted to march to the town square of the mostly-white county to commemorate King's birthday.
The suit accused the Klan of exhorting bystanders to throw rocks and bottles at the marchers.
State Rep. Billy McKinney of Atlanta, one of the plaintiffs, said the verdict will 'send a message to the Klan that violence will not be tolerated.'
The Klan attack on the brotherhood marchers attracted national attention and a week later more than 20,000 people, led by many of the same people who directed the civil rights struggle in the 1960s, marched to the town square, protected by more than 1,000 police officers and National Guardsmen.