Don’t take candy from strangers, especially if they come from the Ku Klux Klan.
Kids in a central New York community woke up Friday morning for school to find Ziploc bags filled with candy and white supremacy propaganda at the end of their driveways.
The packets also included “recruiting information” for the Ku Klux Klan, said Denise Szarek, a member of the Westmoreland Board of Education.
"They come between 4 and 6 in the morning so the candy bars and packets are at the end of the driveway when kids are getting on the school bus," Szarek told KNWA. “Our feeling was that the children [were] being targeted, at least the high school and middle school kids in that age group."
She said the majority of the efforts targeted a mobile home park to reach as many kids as possible.
"My theory is that it's someone local who's downloading them, printing them out and passing it around," Szarek said, adding the documents are easy to find online. "It really could be anyone. But I think we're naïve if we think that KKK members aren't here, aren't present in our communities."
Their community is now coming together to publicly denounce the group, said Ron Klopfanstein, a Westermoreland teacher, journalist and president of the local historical society.
"We’re a good town, with good people, and our peace, safety and equality are worth standing up for,” Klopfanstein said in a tweet. "I am joining my friends and neighbors and standing strong against this hate group before they start burning crosses in Westmoreland, Rome or anywhere in Central New York."
He said this isn’t the first instance of white supremacy recruitment in their area, and is urging local officials to take action.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement shortly after declaring a stronger stance against hate groups.
"While President Trump and Republicans in Washington sow divisiveness and hate that is spreading like a cancer across the country, in New York we say not here, not now, not ever," he said. “Today more than ever, New York must fight against hate crimes and stand as a beacon of equality and diversity."
Cuomo added that he is directing New York State Police to investigate the matter, and is working with the Hate Crimes Task Force to prevent further spreading of hate propaganda.
Meanwhile, Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol said in a statement that "the leaving of these flyers and soliciting people to join the KKK is their right."
He continued: "I believe in unity and tolerance. The KKK is against all of those things However, with that said, I have taken an oath to uphold the constitutional rights of all citizens, which, however repulsive, includes the KKK."