TALLASSEE, Ala. — An organization affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan has been leaving recruitment leaflets around here, and residents aren't happy.
Imperial Wizard Frank Ancona, or president, of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan confirmed Tuesday that the fliers were from a local chapter of the national organization based in Potosi, Mo. Ancona said local chapters are supposed to work within their communities.
"It looks like they are trying to do their job out there," Ancona said.
But it was a job many residents here didn't want done. Tallassee Police Chief Jimmy Rodgers said he began receiving complaints Sunday about recruitment packages — a Ziploc bag containing rocks and a flier — left in people's front yards.
Rodgers and his officers spent the majority of Monday scouring neighborhoods of this city of about 5,000 residents 30 miles northeast of Montgomery, Ala., and removing the packages from yards. About 150 were collected, he said.
Brenda Moore and her husband found a flier in their driveway after friends had told them about it on Facebook. She said everyone on her street received one.
"I told my husband to look at it and throw it in the trash because we don't approve of anything like that," she said. "I just see how it used to be years ago, what they would do and how they would discriminate against black people, and I don't believe in that."
Naomi Watson, who lives across the street from Moore, thought a child had left the fliers out in the yards as a cruel joke and said she, too, does not agree with the message.Moore hopes that if enough people ignore the fliers, those distributing them will be discouraged and go away.
"I think it's absurd. Racism should be behind us," Watson said. "This is 2014. People should really put that behind us and focus on loving each other and just being one people, instead of trying to be against each other."
Mark Potok, senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said activities of this type have been going on in various states recently. Among them:
• In Alabama, the United Klans of America in June distributed fliers in plastic bags weighted with rocks to residents of Oxford, Saks and Wellborn.
• In Florida, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan tossed fliers wrapped in plastic along with a few pieces of candy in front yards in rural Lake Butler.
• In Pennsylvania, the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan distributed fliers in April in Fairview Township north of York. Another Klan group, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, hung fliers on trees and windshields the same month in Canonsburg, a town of 9,000 about 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.
• In Tennessee, the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan distributed fliers in June in Hendersonville, a Nashville suburb better known as the former home of country music star Johnnie Cash than a KKK stronghold.
• In Virginia, the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan distributed fliers in March in four subdivisions of Chesterfield, south of Richmond and put out more fliers in a different subdivision in the county of more than 300,000 on Wednesday, according to media reports.
"This is their latest effort to recruit and get attention," Potok said. At least a half dozen other Klan groups operate in Alabama, according to his organization's data.
However, Potok said this isn't a sign the Klan, formed in December 1865 and America's oldest hate group, is growing in numbers.
"It's always concerning to hear about these activities, but this does not signal a resurgence in the Klan," he said. His organization estimates that all Klan factions have 5,000 to 8,000 members in the USA.
Rogers said Tallassee police received more than 50 phone calls from residents who said they were uncomfortable with the information the flier contained.
The flier asked for "Intelligent, awake, aware, Christian, white people to stand up for our race, our heritage and the American way of life." Further in the flier, it states the organization of the Ku Klux Klan is not a hate group or domestic terrorists, but rather white people standing up for white people.
Eddie Daniels saw nothing wrong with an organization having such a goal.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with supporting your own race. White people support white people just like black people support black people. It's not like they're burning crosses or anything like that."
Some branches of the Klan, which has dozens of offshoots today, have toned down blatant racism and openly militant approaches and instead tout civil rights for whites, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
City Councilman Charles Blalock said the bottom line is for Tallassee residents to stay calm and ignore the message.
"There might be someone out there trying to stir up trouble here, but we are strong-willed people in this town, and we're not going to let something like this upset us or cause any problems between the race relationships that we have," Blalock said.
Ancona said he is waiting to hear back from local leadership on why the group chose Tallassee.
"People who are in leadership positions in local communities, we trust them to know what's best for their community," said Ancona, who also said no one from the local chapter would be available to speak on the matter because they want to remain anonymous.
Ancona said the biggest misconception about the group is a hatred of black people. The group is opposed to interracial marriage, and he said a lot of blacks he has talked with are in agreement.
"That does not mean we cannot be friends with people of other races, but God created us as separate races for a reason, and let's keep it that way," he said. He also said the Klan opposes gay people because they make a choice to sin.
While statements like these upset many people, police chief Rogers said the Constitution protects those views absent any violence or other hateful actions. So the only charge residents can pursue against those who distributed the fliers is criminal littering.