Ku Klux Klan smaller, 'fractured,' still dangerous, Anti-Defamation League report finds

Melanie Eversley

A report due to be released by the Anti-Defamation League on Thursday morning and shared exclusively with USA TODAY says that the Ku Klux Klan appears to be weighed down by infighting and that activities are dwindling.

Ku Klux Klan members take part in a demonstration at the South Carolina state house on July 18, 2015, in Columbia, S.C.

The 10-page report, "Despite Internal Turmoil, Klan Groups Persist," says the Klan's primary activity seems to be distributing hate literature.

"The distribution of racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and Islamophobic fliers remains the most consistent Klan activity," the report said. But such activity is down from 86 incidents in 2015 to 78 in 2016 to 39 so far in 2017.

The report also says that while 42 affiliated groups have staged activities in 33 states for the last 18 months, most groups have less than 25 members.

The report found that social media posts reflect a fractured Klan in which leaders come and go and members do not trust one another. Today's Klan, according to the report, is chiefly preoccupied with perceived threats such as Black Lives Matter, Islam, the LGBT community and transgender restrooms, immigration and removal of Confederate symbols from public places.

“The Ku Klux Klan movement is small and fractured, but still poses a threat to society,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. "These hardened racists and bigots are looking to spread fear, and if they grow dissatisfied with the Klan, they move on to other groups on the extreme far right. There’s lots of instability and unpredictability in the Klan movement."

Representatives for the Klan, also known as the Knights Party, did not immediately respond to a telephone message left Wednesday at their headquarters, the Center for Heritage in Harrison, Ark. A woman who answered the telephone said representatives might not be able to respond until Thursday.

The Ku Klux Klan formed in Pulaski, Tenn., in 1865 during Reconstruction. It has seen a resurgence in recent years.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan participate in a rally in 2004.

The Knights Party website says the Klan is often misunderstood and misrepresented.

"We want to state for the record that we do not endorse hatred," reads a statement on the website. "It is hypocritical for one to think a black, Asian, Mexican or any other person should be praised for being loyal to their heritage, yet a white person can feel the same sense of pride and be criticized for it. It doesn’t make sense."

The report indicated that monitoring of Klan-related conversations on social media reflected instability among leaders and distrust between members. A Pennsylvania Klan member identified as Joe Mulligan is quoted in the report as writing a Facebook post that read: "This is no disrespect to any true IWs (imperial wizards), but there is more Imperial Wizards on Facebook then there is at Hogwart's Academy."

Attendance at public events is sparse, according to the report.

The most recent event documented by the report happened June 11 in Florence, Ala., where 10 members and supporters of the Global Crusaders, the Exalted Knights and the International Keystone Knights protested an LGBT pride march.

The day before, 12 members and supporters of the Rebel Brigade Knights and the Confederate White Knights showed up for a county courthouse rally in Stuart, Va., according to the report.

“As of mid-June this year, there have been three instances in which Klan groups have organized public rallies,” the report read. “In each case, the events were poorly attended even with the benefit of multiple Klan groups participating.”

The report's release loosely coincides with the June 21, 1964, discovery of the bodies of three civil rights workers near Philadelphia, Miss., two of them Jewish and one African-American. On the same day in 2005, white supremacist Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter in the deaths.

“We will not forget these heroes who stood up for human dignity and civil rights for all," Greenblatt said. "And we will work harder every day to honor their memories by continuing to fight discrimination and hate.”

The ADL is an international organization that advocates for the rights of Jewish people.