Local black leaders said Wednesday that the Ku Klux Klan’s distribution of recruitment fliers in Highland and Clinton counties last weekend seems antiquated and contrary to the direction the nation needs to move.
A Ku Klux Klan organization left fliers on local driveways as part of a recruitment action last weekend in Ohio, Virginia and South Carolina, according to a leader of the Imperial White Knights.
Among the recipients were rural residents on Webertown Road in Highland County’s northwest corner and Clinton County residents on Patch Road and Farmers Road. They found the KKK fliers inside plastic bags that contained white rice.
Arlene Cole, president of the Highland County NAACP, said Wednesday, “In this day and time we should be trying to get all people to work with each other rather than trying to make it an individual race we are representing. There are other things we should be doing rather than spreading messages of hate and divisiveness. That’s not what we should be doing in America.”
Her husband, Hillsboro resident Joe Cole, said he doesn’t feel very good about KKK fliers being distributed locally.
“We have enough problems without something like that,” Joe Cole said.
Elsie Young, a 99-year-old Hillsboro resident who took part in a nationally-recognized movement to desegregate the Hillsboro schools in the 1950s, said she didn’t know a local KKK organization still existed.
“That’s too bad. I hate to hear that. We need to get together and work together,” Young said. “We need to upgrade the community.”
Clinton Countian Tim Henry said he found one of the fliers on his driveway Sunday morning. “It made me a bit sick to know this organization still exists,” he said.
Martinsville-area resident Karen Gibson said she found a flyer at her residence Monday after being away Sunday. She called the sheriff’s office and a deputy came and got it, she said.
Several residents in Clinton and Highland counties contacted sheriff’s offices about the fliers.
Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera said his office received “probably three or four” phone reports of the fliers from residents who threw them away, while deputies picked up a couple fliers on driveways.
Barrera said, “I hate to see anything like this come about in the county.” He added the organization is “free to advertise how they wish” in terms of leaving the fliers on private driveways.
Clinton County Sheriff Ralph Fizer Jr. said Wednesday as sheriff he is obligated to protect the [KKK members’] constitutional right to free speech, adding it is also a right of the homeowner “to throw it in the trash if they want.”
Fizer said whether he or residents have the same beliefs, as county sheriff his duty is to make sure the flier distributors abide by the law “and to protect everyone’s constitutional rights no matter what their belief is.”
Among other things, the flier states, “White brothers and sisters, there is nothing hateful in showing pride for your race.”
Chuck Harless, the imperial wizard of the Knoxville, Tenn.-based Imperial White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, confirmed Tuesday he had issued an order for the overnight Saturday, Aug. 8 “flier drop.”
He said Ohio members of the organization distributed approximately 2,000 fliers in Ohio, but said he is “not privy to what counties they placed them in.”
In trying to spread the group’s message, Harless said the intended audience is “average Joe American fed up with what’s going on in America today.”
The website of the Imperial White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan touts itself as “the largest and most active Klan in America today.” Harless said it receives about 75 new applications per day.
He said the sole purpose of having rice in the plastic bags is to keep winds from blowing the bag around and to keep the organization from getting charged with littering. Sometimes candy or rocks are used instead, added Harless.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj. Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.