KKK recruiting fliers dumped near Battle Ground, faith leaders rally to stand with targeted families
Dave Bangert, Lafayette Journal & Courier Published 9:43 a.m. ET May 18, 2020 | Updated 8:33 p.m. ET May 18, 2020
BATTLE GROUND – Plastic sandwich bags filled with fliers preaching white supremacy and weighted down with a rock painted with the letters “KKK” – following a pattern in similar recruiting efforts in Greater Lafayette earlier this year – were strewn on Tippecanoe County driveways and mailboxes over the weekend.
This time the packets, touting a New Carlisle-based National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, were found Sunday morning outside homes along Tyler Road, northeast of Battle Ground and 10 miles from Lafayette.
Tippecanoe County Sheriff Bob Goldsmith confirmed that his office took reports Sunday about the Klan fliers at homes on Tyler Road, about two miles north of Pretty Prairie Road. Goldsmith said his office was documenting calls about the incident.
Plastic sandwich bags, weighted down with rocks painted with the letters KKK and containing Ku Klux Klan recruiting fliers, were found in driveways Sunday, May 17, 2020, of homes north of Battle Ground, police and neighbors said.
Plastic sandwich bags, weighted down with rocks painted with the letters KKK and containing Ku Klux Klan recruiting fliers, were found in driveways Sunday, May 17, 2020, of homes north of Battle Ground, police and neighbors said. (Photo: Photo provided)
Among the recipients was a niece of Joe Mackey, one of four Democrats vying in the June 2 Indiana primary to take on U.S. Rep. Jim Baird for the 4th District congressional seat.
On Sunday, Mackey shared a photo of the haul, saying, “some disgusting clowns left this on my beautiful family’s mailbox last night.”
“An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” Mackey, a Lafayette Democrat, said. “Cowards creeping around in the dark of night spreading their hate. There is no room for hate in a free society, and you are powerless to change this.”
The leaflets charged social media Sunday after friends of those who received the recruiting attempts posted pictures. Families contacted by the J&C Sunday said were reluctant to share their names for fear of being targeted for retribution. One family shared photos with J&C that had been sent to police.
More: West Lafayette mayor issues challenge to put end to KKK fliers: ‘This is bullsh--!’
By late Sunday, a collection of Greater Lafayette faith leaders were inviting residents to make short statements that could be assembled into a video to show “that these voices of hatred represent a small minority and do not represent where we live,” Rabbi Mike Harvey of West Lafayette’s Temple Israel said. The video, he said, would replace a more formal, in-person response in the days of social distancing.
“In watching the news and our local social media, it has been made clear that COVID-19 has not stopped the voices of hatred – therefore, it should not and will not stop the voices of love and acceptance,” Harvey, part the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette, said.
“The object of the video is to provide a loud voice from the good in our community, as I often feel the loudest voices are usually negative, such as KKK flyers, hateful posts, Confederate and Nazi flags, and the like,” Harvey said. “With COVID-19 preventing an in-person march or rally, I felt a virtual rally, so to speak, was the solution in response to not only this incident but of the many that have gone on – reported and unreported.”
The material found in baggies left along Tyler Road included a membership application, along with a request for $20 due, to be part of “the invisible empire of National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” A note signed by someone going by Eric Orion and claiming to be Church of the National Knights imperial wizard, passed off the packet as “religious material.”
“The contents of this package are not to threaten anyone, as we are a duly recognized church,” he wrote. “It is all for the love of our own.”
Messages sent to him by the J&C were not immediately answered.
More: Ku Klux Klan fliers in downtown Lafayette: How much condemnation is enough?
The Southern Poverty Law Center designated the Church of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1960 in South Bend, as a hate group tracked by the Montgomery, Alabama, nonprofit group. The Southern Poverty Law Center called the Indiana-based group “disorganized,” but “still dangerous,” with members connected to plots to blow up a county courthouse in North Carolina in 2006 and the murder of another Klan member in 2003.
that said commissioners would look into what happened.
“There’s right and there’s wrong, and this is clearly wrong,” Brown said. “How we can pursue it is another matter. … But this is 2020. Come on. When you put this kind of garbage in people’s driveways, it’s beyond disappointing. Why would anybody do this kind of thing?"
More: Bangert: Who's behind the anti-KKK posters pasted across downtown Lafayette
Sunday’s incident comes four months after Klan literature showed up on several nights in January in downtown and in the neighborhoods nearby.
Lafayette police reported that more than two dozen near-downtown residents found plastic sandwich bags weighted down with a few stones and containing cards with out-of-state phone numbers, websites and greetings that read, “Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Wants You to Join!” The racist, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ materials rhetoric named a group based in Pelham, North Carolina. No one locally came forward to claim distributing the fliers. Mayor Tony Roswarski, while saying the fliers did not constitute a crime, said he was prepared to publicly name the person spreading the fliers, if that person was identified.
Similar materials touting the KKK, delivered in similar ways, showed up on business doorsteps in 2018 and 2019 in downtown Lafayette. City surveillance cameras, reviewed by the J&C, showed a lone man dropping off packets, though he was never identified or never came forward to take credit.