Ku Klux Klan recruitment fliers are turning up on driveways across the country
Fliers, usually left with candies, appear to be part of a wider recruitment effort
The Klan may be seizing on a time when race and immigration are dominant issues, some say
Carlos Enrique Londoño laughs at the Ku Klux Klan recruitment flier recently left on the driveway of his suburban New York home. It’s unlikely the group would accept him.
“I’m Colombian and dark-skinned,” said Londoño, a painter and construction worker who has lived in Hampton Bays on Long Island for 30 years.
The flier was tucked into a plastic bag along with a membership application, the address for the KKK national office in North Carolina, a list of beliefs and three Jolly Rancher candies.
The packages appear to be part of a wider recruitment effort by the Klan across the country, Ryan Lenz, senior writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told CNN on Saturday.
Similar fliers have turned up in dozens of U.S. cities over the past six months, Lenz said. The SPLC was founded by civil rights lawyers, and is known for tracking and exposing the activities of such groups.
The SPLC says the Ku Klux Klan is the most infamous and oldest of American hate groups. African-Americans have been the main target of the historically violent group, but the Klan also has targeted Jews, immigrants, gays, lesbians and Catholics.
The center estimates that there are between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members nationwide, divided among dozens of divergent and warring groups.
“Since the 1970s the Klan has been greatly weakened by internal conflicts, court cases, a seemingly endless series of splits and government infiltration,” the SPLC says on its website.
The Klan’s Loyal White Knights, the same group touted on the applications sprinkled on front lawns in Hampton Bays, has started major recruitment efforts, according to Lenz.
Renewed efforts after Ferguson shooting, unrest?
Lenz suspects the Klan may be seizing on a moment when the issues of race and immigration are dominant in the national debate. The group may be seeking to capitalize on growing racial tension to garner support, he said.
Some Klan members even vowed to head to Ferguson, Missouri, to stand in the solidarity with a white police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9, Lenz said. The shooting death drew international attention as the St. Louis suburb erupted with sometimes violent protests and a heavy-handed police response.
Calls seeking comment from Klan headquarters in Pelham, North Carolina, were not returned Saturday.
In New York, the Southampton Town Police said it had contacted the Suffolk County Police Department’s hate crimes unit about the fliers.
Londoño said the Klan appeared eager to send a message in the predominantly white town.
“It seems they want the white community to know that Latinos are moving in,” he said. “People are coming here for the work and that does not sit well with them and they feel intimidated.”
Hampton Bays resident Karen Fritsch said the fliers included faded-ink “crude (and) ridiculous” caricatures that appeared aimed at blacks, Latinos and Jewish people.
“It says, beware, we want your jobs, we want your home and we want your country,” Fritsch said of the message.
Fritsch said she was shocked when her husband found the small package on her front lawn last week.
“It’s terrible that my neighbors had to receive something like that,” Frisch said of the Londoños. “I really want no part of that. Why would anyone want to be part of a hate group?”
Fliers part of a ‘national night ride’
The Klan has targeted other cities.
In Orange, California, just south of Angel Stadium, residents last month received fliers in sealed plastic bags, according to CNN affiliate KTLA.
The message on the fliers was “Save our land, join the Klan” and included a phone number and website in Pelham, KTLA reported. The group said it was focused on illegal immigration from Mexico.
The voicemail on the hotline associated with the flier closes with the message: “Always remember: If it ain’t white, it ain’t right. White power.”
In Seneca, South Carolina, some residents last month received bags with fliers and candy, CNN affiliate WHNS reported. The packages directed people to a “Klan Hotline” number that ended with the same recorded “white power” message, the station reported.
Robert Jones, the “Imperial Klaliff” of the Loyal White Knights sect, told WHNS that the effort was part of the Klan’s “national night ride” – a recruitment event that happens three times a year.
Jones said recruitment efforts were not aimed at specific people and that residents “shouldn’t be fearful unless they’re doing something that the Klan considers morally wrong,” according to WHNS.
In Katy, Texas, residents early last month received fliers inviting them to “join the fight to protect U.S. borders,” according to CNN affiliate KPRC.
Damian Neveaux, who is African-American, found a flier and called the number because he, too, was concerned about border security, KPRC reported.
He reached a Klan representative who told him he would not be allowed to join.
“‘The only way you can become a member is if you’re 100 percent Caucasian,” Neveaux recalled the Klan member telling him, according to KPRC. “This flier wasn’t meant for you.’”