Tim O’Neill has been living with his wife on South Central Avenue in Flagler Beach for the past six years. This morning, walking his dog, he noticed a KKK flier had been dropped on his property. It had also been dropped on the lawns or driveways of several neighbors down the block.
“Somebody went through a lot of trouble to do this and they were all down my block,” O’Neill said. “This is not appropriate behavior for our neighborhood.”
The flier singles out Jews and Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the organization that tracks hate groups and advocates on behalf of minorities and immigrants. The flier also seems to sarcastically warn of “white extinction” at Dees’s hands, and offers a website’s url, which is defunct (its registration expired on March 3), and a phone number, which is not. The number links to an area code in north-central North Carolina.
The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are headquartered in that area of the state—in Pelham, just south of the border with Virginia. That group appears to be responsible for a rash of KKK recruitment-by-fliers in several cities and towns in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia at least since the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in mid-August, where members of the Loyal White Knights were among those marching with Confederate flags and tiki torches and chanting “white power” and “Jews will not replace us.”
An identical flier was dropped with candy in several neighborhoods in Leesburg, Va., 24 hours before Halloween. More explicit recruitment fliers from the same White Knights were dropped on Halloween night at about 30 homes in Winchester, in northern Virginia. Recruitment fliers, again from the White Knights, were found in Daytona Beach on Oct. 8, the third instance of recruitment fliers dropping in front of Volusia County homes in a month, according to the News-Journal. The same day, some 100 fliers were dropped along East Arlington Street homes in Jacksonville. Same story in Panama City Beach in late August.
Fliers from the same KKK group dropping them in several cities since the Charlottseville rally.
“I’m so upset,” Jane Mealy, who chairs the Flagler Beach City Commission (and is Jewish), said today after getting a copy of the flier emailed to her from O’Neill. The flier singles out Jews. “I forwarded it to the police chief, who’s out today, asking if they could do some sort of investigation as to where it came from. That’s horrible. There’s so much hate in this world these days, it’s awful. Beyond that, being personally upset and upset for the town—I really can’t—I can’t understand it. I just don’t.”
Flagler Beach Police Chief Matt Doughney could not be reached today. A spokesperson for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said there were no reports of similar fliers anywhere outside Flagler Beach over the weekend or today. But there is little law enforcement can do in the absence of direct threats even if the fliers are intimidating or bigoted. They are protected speech.
A man answering the phone number on the flier, in a recorded message, identifies himself as representing the Loyal White Knights. The phone message appears relatively current, providing the equivalent of a hostage’s image holding up a recent newspaper: the voice makes a reference to an alleged murder on Oct. 8 of a white woman in Pittsburgh by her ex-boyfriend, Matthew Darby, who is black, and who is named and slurred in the phone message. The recorded voice also commends the killer: “At least he took out a nigger lover.”
The message, two days out of date as of today, announces the organization’s next rally as a cross-burning “on November 4” in Virginia, without specifying the time or place, asking callers to leave a message if they want to join the “whites-only” event, or the organization. A message requesting comment about the fliers in Flagler Beach was not returned.
A few homes in Palm Coast and a street or two over the past few years have been spray-painted with vague and sloppy graffiti that could be interpreted to be inspired by or referring to the KKK. But the county has experienced a relative absence of hate crimes. And this is the first time fliers clearly purporting to be the KKK’s have been dropped in front of homes since recruiting fliers from the United Northern & Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan made an appearance on Easter Day in Palm Coast’s Seminole Woods. A member of that organization subsequently confirmed it was recruiting locally.
Following the 2010 recruitment fliers, Mealy denounced the distribution more forthrightly than any other public official in the county, urging the city to speak clearly and in unison after county officials had responded far more timidly and indirectly.
The flier found today is a black and white, showing a crude drawing of a man astride a locomotive and waving under a banner headline, “ATTENTION WHITE AMERICA!”
The locomotive is imprinted with the Star of David, its coal wagon is filled with cash. The wagons behind it refer to “United Klans of America,” once known as the largest Klan organization in the country and as the group linked to the bombing that killed for young girls at 16th Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. Its leader, Robert Shelton, died in 2003. The organization is believed to have dissolved after it went bankrupt, losing a $7 million lawsuit in 1987 to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The man supposedly conducting the locomotive in the flier is Dees. The flier makes a direct reference to Dees below an “invitation” to ride the “J & L Railroad (Jew & Liberal).”
Two other names appear on wagons—those of Tom Metzger (the last name is misspelled on the flier), a skinhead and former “grand wizard” of the Klan, and his son John, whom the late Christopher Hitchens interviewed on CNBC in 1991. SPLC calls Tom Metzger, founder of the White Arian Resistance, “one of the most notorious living white supremacists in the United States.”
“This is the kind of stuff somebody’s got to say something,” O’Neill said of the fliers in Flagler Beach. “My wife and I both find it distasteful.”