As the Country Decries Racism, Hundreds of Thousands Demand the KKK Be Designated as Terrorist Organization
Hundreds of thousands have signed online petitions demanding the designation of the KKK as a terrorist group.
As the country rails against racism, hundreds of thousands of Americans are demanding the Ku Klux Klan be designated as a terrorist group in an online movement that is rapidly gaining momentum. As of publication, nearly a million people had signed several Change.org petitions asking the government to label the Klan a terrorist organization.
“The Ku Klux Klan is a white supremacist hate group with historic background of terrorism, including countless physical assaults and murders,” one Change.org petition reads. “The KKK is still active in certain parts of the country and has public rallies. Hate should not be a way to bring the communities together, nor should it be allowed or tolerated.”
The outcry follows the Sunday arrest of self-proclaimed Virginia Klan leader Harry Rogers, 36, on charges of attempted malicious wounding, destruction of property, and assault and battery, after Richmond police said he drove his card into a group of peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
Police said Rogers told them he was president of the Klan's Virginia chapter, and the only member not in prison, authorities said.
Witnesses said Rogers revved his engine before plowing into a group of protesters, police said.
Rogers “is an admitted leader of the Ku Klux Klan and a propagandist for Confederate ideology,” Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor said Monday in a statement.
“While I am grateful that the victim’s injuries do not appear to be serious, an attack on peaceful protesters is heinous and despicable and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,” Taylor said. Rogers was denied bail during a Monday court appearance. It is not clear whether he entered a plea.
In the neighboring state of Maryland, Carroll County residents reported receiving white supremacist fliers from the KKK over the weekend. The pages were sealed inside plastic bags weighed down with birdseed and placed in mailboxes and on front lawns, according to a local paper.
In Alabama, a series of tweets claiming the Klan was descending on Birmingham ignited a fearful social media storm that prompted some businesses to close early, according to local reports. City officials, seeking to calm residents, later issued a statement saying the KKK was not coming and urged people to stay safe.
Virginia's Henrico County incident echoed a deadly episode in Charlottesville nearly three years ago, when a man plowed his car into a crowd of demonstrators peacefully protesting a white-supremacist rally, killing one woman and injuring at least 19 other people.
James Alex Fields Jr., an avowed white supremacist, had traveled from Ohio for the rally and deliberately drove into a crowd in an outdoor mall, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. He was convicted in a state court of first-degree murder and hit and run as well as eight counts of malicious wounding. He also pleaded guilty to 29 of 30 federal hate crimes filed against him. He received two life sentences from the proceedings.
The ugly specter of Klan violence, lynchings and its white supremacist propaganda has hung over the U.S. since the 1800s. Though it presence has drastically decreased, "The Ku Klux Klan, with its long history of violence, is the oldest and most infamous of American hate groups," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center's website. "Although black Americans have typically been the Klan's primary target, it also has attacked Jews, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community and, until recently, Catholics."
The online petitions at Change.org quickly went viral, with one drawing more than 400,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. Others drew similar numbers.
"We ask if ISIS or ISIL is labeled a terrorist group, then surely the KKK fit the clear description of a terrorist," said one petition post.
The KKK is currently classified as a domestic extremist group, rather than a terrorist organization.
ISIS, Boko Haram and al Qaeda are listed as terrorist organizations deemed to threaten the security of the U.S. There currently are no domestic designations for groups such as the Klan, which espouses white supremacist ideology that can sometimes receive protection under the First Amendment.
The petitions have gathered the highest number of signatures of any in the history of Change.org, the group said. They went up in recent days, following the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, a homicide that has sparked protests around the world against police brutality and racial injustice.
The Minneapolis officers were responding to a call about a counterfeit $20 bill.
The ensuing protests have included violence and charges of police brutality against demonstrators. Several officers have been charged with assault after videos surfaced on social media showing demonstrators being tear-gassed, beaten with batons and shoved to the pavement, sometimes resulting in serious injury.
In Washington, D.C., George Floyd’s younger brother, Philonise, spoke Wednesday to the House Judiciary Committee.
"I am asking you, is that what a black man’s life is worth? $20? This is 2020. Enough is enough. The people marching in the streets are telling you enough is enough,” he said.
Floyd’s emotional response came one day after his brother's funeral.
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