Many are aware that the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), a white supremacy group, has recently attempted to rebrand its organization. Today, the Klan, which distributed recruitment flyers Sunday in Fishers, Indiana, is not classified as a terrorist group and is protected by the free speech clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Black Panther Party, is however described as an “extremist organization” that uses “violence and guerilla tactics” on the Federal Bureau of Investigation Vault webpage. The same website lists the KKK with no description. Bessie House, a professor of political science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, asked, “What is terrorism? How do we define our terms? We have to be able to use these things in the same way when we’re looking at different kinds of activities, regardless of who perpetrates them, regardless of what race the perpetrator is.”
Terrorism is defined by Merriam-Webster as “violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.”
House continued, “We see stereotypes in not just the individual images the media gives us, but in the narrative they give us. For example, when we had a caucasian man that entered the African-American church and killed the minister and a number of members of the congregation, the media was reluctant to describe that as an act of terrorism. However, when we have an African-American man that gunned down policemen the word terrorism was used repeatedly. Both of these individuals perpetrated equally heinous acts.”
Although the KKK is classified differently than other extremist groups, some organizations condemn the group’s messages.
American Civil Liberties Union Director of Communications and Education Kelly Jones Sharp said, “We wouldn’t look at something like this from a legal perspective but from the other stuff that we do, like our advocacy and education work. We are actively trying to educate on Black Lives Matter, and racial justice and all of the sub-issues involved with mass incarceration like the school-to-prison pipeline. Also, in our advocacy work we would be able to help advance some roles in legislative sessions.”
Jones Sharp said the the ACLU will do more advocacy work when the legislature goes back into session soon to learn how hate crime laws can tie into discriminatory groups and practices.
The Fishers Police Department has found that the group has posed no threat to the public with its recruiting efforts.
Fishers Police Officer Tom Weger said, “I can only speak on what has happened now. I can’t speak on what might happen in the future, but as of right now, no crime has been committed. It’s not illegal to leave a loose leaf pamphlet at a residence. We have it happen all the time, whether someone wants to mow your lawn or clean your house, but don’t get me wrong, it’s unfortunate that this has happened, but from a legal standpoint no crime has been committed.”
The Fishers Police told media outlets that the department will remain aware of the incident. The Recorder asked if the awareness could initiate any sort of process in the future. Leger said, “I can’t answer that.”
Although the KKK has a past of terrorist tactics, law enforcement and other entities do not consider the organization a threat.
Weger said this is the first documented recruitment by the discriminatory group in Fishers, Indiana. Hopefully for the community, it will be the last.
House said, “We’re in a really serious crisis in this country, and we really need to work together across racial, gender, age lines to come up with a solution, so that all people in this country feel valued.”