Monday, March 10, 2008
A black civil rights activist is fighting to close a store that sells KKK robes and T-shirts emblazoned with racial slurs. David Kennedy is confident he can make it happen. After all, he says he owns the building.
Since 1996, the Redneck Shop has operated in an old movie theater that, according to court records, was transferred in 1997 to Kennedy and the Baptist church he leads.
"Our ownership puts an end to that history as far as violence and hatred, racism being practiced in that place and also the recruiting of the Klan," Kennedy said. "This is the same place that we had to go up into the balcony to go to the movies before the Klan took it. So there's a lot of history there."
But legal documents also indicate that the man who runs the store, 62-year-old John Howard, is entitled to operate his business in the building until he dies. Now the dispute may go to court.
Kennedy, 54, has led protests outside the store since it opened but said he's never been able to close it because of the agreement that Howard can run the shop for life. . . .
Howard used to own the whole building. When his store first opened, he said, people threw rocks at his windows, spit in his doorway and picketed. A month later, a man intentionally crashed his van through the front windows.
"If anything turns people off, they shouldn't come in here. It's not a thing in here that's against the law," Howard said, adding that he was once the KKK's grand dragon for South Carolina and North Carolina.
To blacks, Kennedy said, the store is a reminder of this region's painful past, which includes the lynching of his great-great-uncle by a white mob.
The town of Laurens, about 30 miles southeast of Greenville, was named after 18th century slave trader Henry Laurens.
Some street addresses are still marked with the letter "C" that once designated black homes as "colored."
I'm curious about Howard's interest -- is it a life estate? Or a tenancy "for life?" If the later, depending on how it is written, it could actually be a tenancy at will, which might allow the landlord to terminate.
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