Klan vows renewed push in Ohio, other states

When things start going wrong, it’s time for us to start retaliating. It’s time for us to get active

By Holly Zachariah / Columbus Dispatch / February 10, 2017

 

Amanda Lee says she is building an army and Ohio plays a key role in her plans.

As the national imperial commander for the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Lee predicted last week that 2017 will bring a resurgence of her group’s activity — public rallies, widespread pamphlet distribution, greater recruitment efforts — and a push in several targeted states, including Ohio.

“We have people all over Ohio already. There is a large membership of Loyal White Knights there,” she said in a phone interview during a dinner break from her job in North Carolina. “When things start going wrong, it’s time for us to start retaliating. It’s time for us to get active.”

Lee said she couldn’t provide membership numbers despite the fact that members of her branch of the KKK pay monthly dues — $10 a person or $15 a couple — and that it calls itself the largest KKK faction in the United States. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that tracks what it calls hate and extremist groups and combats discrimination through education and litigation, has acknowledged the Loyal White Knights has a significant Ohio presence.

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The Alabama-based law center said in its most-recent report that 34 such hate groups operate in Ohio, dividing them into categories, including KKK, black separatist, white nationalist, racist/skinhead, neo-Nazi and anti-LGBT. The center maps where the groups are based, including Ohio organizations such as the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement in Cleveland, the Nation of Islam in Columbus and the Supreme White Alliance in Cincinnati.

Rick Zwayer, the director of Ohio Homeland Security, said it falls to every federal, state and local law enforcement officer to monitor extremist groups and to keep an eye out for those who might want to do harm to others.

An increasing amount of organizing happens online, however, including for the world’s most-visited white supremacist website, the Daily Stormer, which is run by central Ohio native Andrew Anglin. Anglin’s specific whereabouts are unknown these days but, at least until recently, donations to his website were directed to a Worthington business address associated with his father.

Where the groups originate or are based matters less as the power of their online activity expands, said Michael S. Waltman, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Waltman teaches a class on hate speech and has written books on the subject.

“The internet offers a great degree of anonymity, and it has made organizing and recruiting a lot easier for groups,” Waltman said. “It fosters an even greater apocalyptic rhetoric.”

The law center also tracks what it calls anti-government or “patriot” groups, such as organized militias or sovereign-citizen organizations. There are 52 of the latter in Ohio, at last report, with the bulk of them being county chapters of the Ohio Minutemen Militia. But the center also recently used social media, news stories and self-reporting to track incidents of actual violence or intimidation.

In the report that looked at “bias-related incidents” in roughly a month after the November election of President Donald Trump, the center found 1,094 such incidents across the country, with the majority being anti-immigrant. They ranged from threatening voice mails left at churches to racial slurs tossed at children.