A Ku Klux Klan

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOE HEIM

chap­ter is aim­ing to re­cruit in Vir­ginia towns by dis­tribut­ing fliers that pro­mote racist and anti- Semitic mes­sages.

Res­i­dents be­gan notic­ing the lit­tle plas­tic bags Tues­day af­ter­noon in Wash­ing­ton, Va. They car­ried bird seed — and a flier pro­mot­ing racist and anti-Semitic mes­sages.

The Rap­pa­han­nock County sher­iff re­ceived a call about 1 p.m. Tues­day from a woman who found one of the bags on her drive­way. The mes­sage in­side de­nounced Black Lives Mat­ter and urged re­cip­i­ents to join the Ku Klux Klan. A flier found by an­other res­i­dent at­tacked “Jews and their syn­a­gogues of Satan.” Both fliers listed ad­dresses and a phone num­ber for the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which is head­quar­tered in Pel­ham, N.C., near the Vir­ginia border.

“I thought it was kind of bizarre,” said Me­gan Smith, who found one of the bags in front of her house. “Why are they just pick­ing on Lit­tle Wash­ing­ton?”

Wash­ing­ton, the county seat of 270-square-mile Rap­pa­han­nock County, has just 150 or so res­i­dents but is known for The Inn at Lit­tle Wash­ing­ton, a Miche­lin star restau­rant that at­tracts din­ers

from all over the world.

Sher­iff Con­nie Comp­ton said law en­force­ment quickly can­vassed the tiny town 70 miles south­west of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and col­lected 50 to 60 sim­i­lar plas­tic bags on the drive­ways of res­i­dences and busi­nesses. This is the first time the com­mu­nity has been tar­geted, Comp­ton said, but other nearby towns have been the sub­ject of Klan re­cruit­ing this fall.

Sim­i­lar Klan ma­te­rial de­liv­ered in bags turned up in Gore, Front Royal and Stras­burg in Septem­ber. More than two dozen such bags were de­liv­ered to homes in Winch­ester on Hal­loween night, the Winch­ester Star re­ported.

Chris Barker, 38, who de­scribes him­self as “im­pe­rial wizard” of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said in an in­ter­view Tues­day that his group is re­spon­si­ble for the fliers in Wash­ing­ton, Va., and the other com­mu­ni­ties. He said the group has been re­cruit­ing mem­bers across Vir­ginia and sev­eral other states, and in Canada. Last week, he at­tended a cer­e­mony in Danville at which 12 new mem­bers were sworn in, he said.

“White peo­ple are be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against, and the Jewish-con­trolled me­dia is try­ing to make us feel guilty,” Barker said. “Amer­i­cans need to see there is an­other op­tion. We are a civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tion for white peo­ple. We do not pro­mote vi­o­lence.”

The Klan dis­tills its tenets on one of the fliers en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to join.

“We are not a hate group or openly show hate,” it reads. “We are Chris­tian-based and up­hold the Bi­ble.”

In Au­gust, Barker threat­ened to burn a black Colom­bian jour­nal­ist who met him at his home for an in­ter­view. Dur­ing the in­ter­view with Ilia Calderón, an an­chor for Univi­sion, Barker re­ferred to her by a racist ep­i­thet.

“Are you go­ing to chase me out of here?” Calderón asked.

“No, we’re go­ing to burn you out,” he replied.

When the reporter asked how Barker would burn out 11 mil­lion unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants in the United States, he an­swered, “We killed 6 mil­lion Jews the last time. Eleven mil­lion is noth­ing.”

Barker’s off­shoot of the Klan, which formed in 2011, made head­lines in July when it protested the planned re­moval of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park in Char­lottesville.

About three dozen mem­bers turned out that day, many wear­ing Klan robes and most car­ry­ing sidearms. The rally was short­lived, as sev­eral hun­dred protesters drowned out the speak­ers, and the Klan mem­bers soon ex­ited the park through a pha­lanx of lo­cal and state po­lice. That event was fol­lowed a month later by the Unite the Right rally in Char­lottesville, a gath­er­ing of white na­tion­al­ists, neo-Nazis and Klan mem­bers that ex­ploded into vi­o­lence. A coun­ter­protester was fa­tally struck by a car, and two po­lice of­fi­cers were killed when their he­li­copter crashed.

Al­though Barker’s chap­ter has at­tracted at­ten­tion this year, the Klan con­tin­ues to be in de­cline be­cause of in­fight­ing and com­pe­ti­tion from other white su­prem­a­cist or­ga­ni­za­tions that view the group as out­dated and long past its prime, said Carla Hill, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor and ex­pert on the Klan for the Anti-Defama­tion League’s Cen­ter on Ex­trem­ism.

The Loyal White Knights, Hill said, have turned to fliers as a way to gen­er­ate pub­lic­ity and com­pen­sate for their lack of mem­ber­ship. The group is re­spon­si­ble for 34 of the 71 flier in­ci­dents re­ported this year in 13 states, ac­cord­ing to the ADL’s track­ing of ex­trem­ist groups. De­spite the re­cent ef­forts in Vir­ginia and else­where, Hill doesn’t see the down­ward tra­jec­tory of the Klan’s mem­ber­ship and in­flu­ence chang­ing.

“The Klan per­sists,” Hill said. “It’s the long­est-stand­ing ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion in the United States. And the Loyal White Knights are ac­tively dis­tribut­ing this ma­te­rial. But if you map where they do this, you can see that it is in clus­tered ar­eas. This flier­ing is prob­a­bly the work of a very limited num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als.”

When com­mu­ni­ties re­spond by re­port­ing and de­nounc­ing the Klan’s re­cruit­ing ef­forts, the mes­sage gets through, Hill said.

“They are still out there spread­ing hate­ful rhetoric,” she said, “but they can see that they’re not ac­cepted and ap­pre­ci­ated by the vast ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans, and then the ac­tivism wanes.”

Comp­ton, the Rap­pa­han­nock sher­iff, said so far, no wit­nesses have re­ported see­ing the pack­ages dropped off. The sher­iff said she be­lieves the bird seed was prob­a­bly used to keep the fliers from blow­ing away.

While Comp­ton thinks a lit­ter­ing charge is prob­a­bly the most se­ri­ous ci­ta­tion any­one could face, she said she is dis­turbed about the Klan an­nounc­ing its pres­ence in the county.

“We don’t have gangs here, and we don’t need any­thing like this start­ing prob­lems here,” she said. “We are a quiet, quaint lit­tle area. I guess some­body is just try­ing to get peo­ple to join the Ku Klux Klan, but we don’t have th­ese prob­lems here and we don’t want them.”

OB­TAINED BY THE WASH­ING­TON POST

A Ku Klux Klan flier found on drive­ways in Wash­ing­ton, Va. The county sher­iff says this is the first time the town has been tar­geted.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.