Numerous residents in Saks, Wellborn and Oxford reported finding fliers from the United Klans of America on their driveways and lawns Sunday.
The discovery has prompted a police investigation, but it wasn’t clear Monday whether a crime was committed in the distribution of the material.
Katrina King was one of several Saks resident who found a flier.
King, who is white, held out the flier at her Sprague Avenue home for a reporter to see Monday morning, and said “To me, it’s a joke. Stuff like this doesn’t scare me.”
If King seemed unbothered by the flier, others had different reactions to finding them. A neighbor of King’s, who is black, declined to comment on her discovery.
That’s the point of such fliers, said Heidi Beirich, intelligence project director at the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups: They’re meant to intimidate.
Similar fliers have also been found at homes in Oxford and Wellborn, Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh said Monday.
The fliers were found in plastic bags weighted with rocks. On one side of the fliers are printed “Neighborhood Watch. You can sleep well tonight knowing the Klan is awake!” along with the group’s telephone number and web address.
On the other side, the flier states that “There is no promise of white power here … a heart is meant to love, not hate.”
Beirich said the group behind the fliers isn’t the same violent group as it once was, but it is still an organization centered on white power and intimidation.
The original UKA, headed by Robert Shelton, was responsible for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that killed four girls in Birmingham in 1963, and at least two other murders.
In June of 2011 Bradley Jenkins of Ashland registered a domain name found on the fliers. Several attempts Monday to reach Jenkins for comment were unsuccessful.
“Today, it’s less than a shadow of its former self,” Beirich said of the group, but she added that the center is unsure how many members the group has.
Beirich said what the UKA is known for today is the group’s attempt to rebrand the Klan as a non-racist organization. It’s also known for Jenkins’ various media stunts, such as an announcement that a counter-rally would be held in Memphis in March 2013 against another Ku Klux Klan rally there. Jenkins had said the group planning the rally wasn’t the real Klan.
“This is completely ridiculous. You can’t have a non-racist Klan. It’s a silly proposition. Everything about the group is white supremacy,” Beirich said. “The Klan is the oldest domestic terrorist group in the country. It was founded to terrorize black people.”
In July 2013 similar fliers, also in plastic bags weighted with rocks, were found at homes in Milford, Conn. More such fliers were found at homes in Des Moines, Wash., in September 2013.
Anniston police Capt. Allen George declined to comment on the fliers Monday, other than to say it’s not illegal to distribute such material.
“We have no comment on the fliers, as it would give credence to an otherwise non-credible group,” George wrote in an email to The Star Monday.
Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart addressed the matter in a written statement issued Monday afternoon.
“These actions are disappointing. As the City of Anniston continues to move forward toward progression we are frequently reminded at times how much further we, together with our surrounding cities and communities, still have to go. This is one of those times,” Vaughn wrote. “We are on the move as a city together as one and will not allow anyone to derail our mission to improve quality of life here for all citizens in northeast Alabama.”
Oxford police Lt. L.G. Owens said his department had received no complaints on the fliers recently. However, he said, several years ago residents reported receiving fliers from the same group. Police called the group and requested that they stop distributing them in the city.
It could be considered criminal littering to distribute those fliers in yards, Owens said, but the individuals doing it “would have to be caught in the act.”
“Is it aggravating? Yes. Is it meant to push your buttons? Yes,” Owens said.
David Baker, president of the Calhoun County chapter of the NAACP, said he spent Sunday on the phone with residents angry over the fliers.
“The phone just kept ringing. People are upset about it,” Baker said. “People are afraid that anything can happen.”
McVeigh, the district attorney, asked that residents who receive the fliers report them to their local police departments. Once police investigate the incidents, McVeigh said, his office would determine whether a crime was committed.
News accounts about the group may be what the organization wants, Beirich said, but “at the end of the day, people need to know that they're out there.”
James Owens, who owns three rental homes in Saks near where the fliers were distributed, said the pamphlets and the group behind them, aren’t welcome in the community.
“We are a combined, integrated neighborhood,” Owens said. “It’s peaceful and quiet. We don’t need this here.”