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Our View: Reject the KKK, expose those who distribute the hate group’s vile literature

The Ku Klux Klan of today, thankfully, is a largely impotent, dying hate group whose views are so abhorrent that the organization hasn’t been able to gain traction even as hate crimes reached a 16-year high in the most recent FBI statistics.

But, occasionally, the KKK does make an appearance, distributing its vile literature in hopes of recruiting a few disenchanted citizens to its disgusting mission. And, on Tuesday, neighborhoods in Westminster (and by some social media accounts, New Windsor and Taneytown) received flyers, weighed down with birdseed, thrown into driveways, promoting the KKK.

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The KKK is today a collection of small, disjointed groups that continually change in name and leadership, according to the ADL, with just over 30 active Klan groups in the United States, most very small. But it would be a mistake to simply dismiss the KKK as a wholly irrelevant product of a different time.

Racism and hate crimes are certainly relevant issues in 2020. And because of its history and what the group stands for, KKK literature and imagery continues to have an outsized impact. No one wants to see it turning up on their property. Unfortunately, several in Westminster did on Tuesday, some reaching out to the Times but unwilling to give their names, a sign of what people continue to think the KKK might be capable of even today.

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Jennifer Sharpsten, who lives in a neighborhood within the city limits of Westminster, was the first to contact us. She said she went out to check her mailbox at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and found one of the flyers on her driveway. She walked around and found seven on her street and another adjoining it, she said.

Spokesperson Tim Brown said in the early afternoon that the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office had received two calls about flyers on streets within the Westminster ZIP code but outside city limits. Sheriff Jim DeWees said the flyers had been spread in neighborhoods along northwest parts of the county and toward areas outside of New Windsor.

DeWees said if anyone had Ring doorbell footage or other video recordings that could help identify an individual or their vehicle, the Sheriff’s Office would be happy to take a look at it. “If we can track down the individual that put out that garbage, we will, and we will interview them,” he said. He said they would consult with the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges were warranted.

There were at least three different versions of the flyers, each containing white supremacist propaganda messages. One referenced a recent crime committed in Frederick County, making it appear that its origin was local. Two of the flyers listed logos and contact information for the KKK. A third listed information for the “National Socialist Movement.” A phone number listed on the flyers directs callers to a voicemail message from “the Loyal White Knights of the KKK.”

Similar leaflets, also in baggies weighed down with birdseed, were found in Eldersburg and Sykesville in November 2018. DeWees said that incident was the most recent he was aware of in Carroll County.

We obviously condemn those who distributed this “garbage,” as DeWees aptly put it, and urge anyone contacted by this group to reject its hateful beliefs and to contact law enforcement.

In addition to contacting law enforcement, images or videos of supporters dropping off the KKK flyers could also be uploaded to social media to expose those engaging in this recruitment. While the KKK’s hate speech is likely protected by the Constitution, no one should have to merely accept finding it on their property.

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