Ku Klux Klan em­braces Trump, but resur­gence seems un­likely

‘Our mem­ber­ship grows by the day’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In the wake of Don­ald Trump’s vic­tory and the re­cent rise of the white na­tion­al­ist “alt-right,” a 150year-old racist group has been spread­ing its wings: The Ku Klux Klan, which to­day is plan­ning its first post-elec­tion rally. “Our mem­ber­ship grows by the day,” said Gary Munker, who iden­ti­fies him­self as a spokesman for the group. The Klan, since its cre­ation in 1866, has called for a white and Chris­tian Amer­ica; his­tor­i­cally, it has re­sorted to lynch­ings and racial vi­o­lence as the means to its end.

Like the for­mer KKK leader David Duke, who sup­ported Trump’s can­di­dacy-and was even­tu­ally dis­avowed by the New York bil­lion­aire-Munker says he was drawn by the Repub­li­can can­di­date’s lan­guage, par­tic­u­larly his at­tacks against im­mi­grants and his talk of de­port­ing mil­lions. The move­ment was born in the dev­as­tated states of the South in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the Civil War, just three years af­ter Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln or­dered all slaves in the South to be freed.

Munker, wear­ing one of the group’s em­blem­atic hooded white robes, claimed that his branch of the KKK-the Loyal White Knights-has 700 mem­bers on Long Is­land, where he lives, and an ad­di­tional 500 in the rest of New York state. Munker, 36, who calls him­self a fam­ily man, said peo­ple were be­gin­ning to “wake up” to what is hap­pen­ing in the coun­try. He said that he joined the Loyal White Knights-one of 40 lo­cal or re­gional groups mak­ing up the Klan­five years ago af­ter see­ing his quiet and “es­sen­tially white” neigh­bor­hood change seem­ingly overnight with the ar­rival of sub­si­dized hous­ing units and a much more di­verse pop­u­la­tion.

No resur­gence

Munker, who was vague about his full-time pro­fes­sion for fear he might lose his job, is an ac­tive mem­ber of the Klan: a na­tive of a ru­ral part of Long Is­land, he reg­u­larly dis­trib­utes tracts in nearby cities in an ef­fort to draw new mem­bers. The last time he did this was on Novem­ber 17, in a park­ing lot in the vil­lage of Patchogue, which en­tered the dark an­nals of Amer­i­can racism af­ter a group of high school stu­dents taunted and punched and then mur­dered an Ecuado­ran im­mi­grant in 2008.

The dis­cov­ery of Munker’s leaflets prompted some 200 lo­cal res­i­dents to or­ga­nize a rally against racism the fol­low­ing Sun­day. Far from the killings or the burn­ing crosses that made the Klan’s grim rep­u­ta­tion, leaflet­ing is now the Klan’s chief ac­tiv­ity in 14 states and “gives them an ex­ten­sive ge­o­graph­i­cal reach,” said Carla Hill, an in­ves­tiga­tive re­searcher with the Cen­ter on Ex­trem­ism of the Anti-Defama­tion League, the Jewish group ded­i­cated to fight­ing in­tol­er­ance.

The lat­est avail­able data, she said, does not point to a resur­gence of the move­ment, what­ever Gary Munker might say: 74 in­stances of KKK leaflet­ing have been counted so far this year, com­pared to 86 in 2015. The Loyal White Knights have an­nounced plans for a rally Satur­day in North Carolina, with­out con­firm­ing the ex­act time or place. But even if it does take place, Carla Hill said, it is un­likely to at­tract much more of a crowd than the Klan’s last sev­eral demon­stra­tions, which rarely drew more than a few dozen par­tic­i­pants.

‘Po­lit­i­cal space’

For Mark Po­tok, a spe­cial­ist at the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, which mon­i­tors ex­trem­ism in the US, even if so-called white na­tion­al­ism has un­de­ni­ably gained promi­nence since the ar­rival of Barack Obama as the first black US pres­i­dent, the move­ment ap­pears un­likely to take on sig­nif­i­cant mo­men­tum. Klan mem­ber­ship is no more than 6,000 to­day, he noted, com­pared to 40,000 in the 1960s and sev­eral mil­lion in the 1920s. Still, pro­po­nents of white su­pe­ri­or­ity feel that Trump’s elec­tion has given them “a po­lit­i­cal space to present their views as le­git­i­mate,” Po­tok said, adding that “they have not been taken that se­ri­ously in 50 years.”

Thus, a con­fer­ence Novem­ber 20 in the fed­er­ally owned Ron­ald Rea­gan Build­ing in Wash­ing­ton gath­ered some 250 white su­prem­a­cists, some of whom raised their arms in a Nazi-like salute to their far-right leader Richard Spencerand to Trump’s vic­tory. But these “in­tel­lec­tual” ex­trem­ists, who re­fer to their move­ment as the alt-right,” “look down on the Klan,” Po­tok said.

For the Klan, with its dark history of vi­o­lence, “can’t make the claim like Richard Spencer that ‘we are stand­ing up for the rights of white peo­ple (but) we don’t hate any­body,’” said Po­tok. But Munker said he mis­trusts the smooth talk­ers of the alt-right: “We are Chris­tians (while) they let any­body inand just that makes me won­der about their in­tegrity,” he said. — AFP

IN­DI­ANAPO­LIS: Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump ar­rives on De­cem­ber 1, 2016 at the air­port ahead of a visit to the Car­rier air con­di­tion­ing and heat­ing com­pany. — AFP

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