Despite efforts by Ku Klux Klan groups to gain publicity by exploiting the presidential election and distributing hate literature, the Klan today is a collection of mostly small, disjointed groups with no predominant leadership or stability, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “Tattered Robes: The State of the Ku Klux Klan.”
“What remains of the Klan is a collection of mostly small and disjointed groups that have difficulty in recruiting members and even maintaining any semblance of long-term stability,” said Oren Segal, Director of ADL’s Center on Extremism. “Klan groups form and dissolve just as quickly, and few longstanding groups still exist. Even those aren’t very healthy.”
ADL’s report identifies current trends among Klan groups and provides examples of recent Klan activity. While many are adept at exploiting the media by staging political endorsements, leafleting, and occasional rallies, most organized Klan groups suffer from a lack of cohesion and paucity of members, key factors in its long-term trend of decline. Other factors in its decline include a perception that Klan groups are old or outdated, as well as the presence of other types of white supremacist groups that compete for membership with Klan groups.
Some quick facts about Klan group membership and recent activity:
There are currently about 30 active Klan groups in the U.S, most of them very small. There are approximately 3,000 Klan group members nationwide, as well as an additional but unknown number of supporters and associates.
Distributing racist fliers has evolved into a key Klan tactic, as it requires few members to accomplish. In 2015, ADL counted 86 separate incidents in which Klan fliers were left on doorsteps or driveways in neighborhoods around the country, an increase from 73 similar incidents in 2014.
There were only three public Klan rallies across the United States in 2015. Klan organized rallies were held in Montgomery, Alabama; Columbia, South Carolina; and the University of Mississippi. Some Klan group members did take part in extremist events staged by other groups.
More than half of the currently active Klan groups were formed only in the last five years, showing how short-lived and unstable today’s KKK groups tend to be.
The report says that some regional Klan groups, such as the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights, which is the most active Klan group in the U.S. today, have a broad, though shallow, geographical reach. In 2015, the Loyal White Knights, which has between 150 and 200 members, were able to draw attention to themselves in 15 different states in the south and east, primarily through leafleting.
Most Klan groups, however, are significantly smaller. The Kentucky-based Elders Blood-N-Blood Out Knights, for example, consists of just a handful of members.
Ideology of Klan Groups: Hatred of Non-Whites infused with Neo-Nazism
Many Klan groups today promote a traditional Klan ideology infused with varying degrees of neo-Nazi beliefs or affiliations. For some Klan groups, embracing neo-Nazi tenets has resulted in symbiotic relationships with neo-Nazi groups. Some Klan groups have formed alliances with factions of Aryan Nations and the National Socialist Movement.
“Making explicit or de facto alliances allows more joint events, which can help mask the small numbers that individual white supremacist groups are able to generate,” said Dr. Mark Pitcavage, ADL Senior Research Fellow and one of the authors of the report.
Klan groups have rallied recently around issues such as immigration and alleged “white genocide” and have attended anti-Muslim protests. Klan members and supporters in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and West Virginia have distributed anti-Muslim fliers urging readers to join the Klan and “help fight the spread of Islam.” Other groups use attention-getting antics to attract publicity. One group, the International Keystone Knights, made news for appealing an “Adopt-a-Highway” court ruling in Georgia, a common white supremacist publicity stunt, while the Arkansas-based Knights Party drew attention after sponsoring a racist billboard in their home state.
Criminal Activity and Violence
ADL’s report also details how individuals with present or past connections to Klan groups have recently been convicted of a wide range of violent crimes from murder sprees to assault. Some have attempted and conspired to commit murder, while others have been arrested for illegal possession of a variety of weapons, from brass knuckles to firearms and explosives. However, the declining Klan membership has in the long-term meant reductions in criminal activity as well, a trend that will hopefully continue.
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