Fliers for the Ku Klux Klan that were thrown onto properties around Jacksonville last week are just the beginning of a major recruitment drive, according to a KKK leader.
A man who identified himself as a Grand Dragon with the KKK said membership in Jacksonville alone is about 1,500 right now, including members who are doctors, paramedics and fast-food workers.
Grand Dragon Ken, who said he oversees the Florida Realm, told News4Jax that the recruitment effort is statewide.
“We're going to hit the news everywhere,” said Ken, who declined to give his last name. “We're trying to let white America know that we're not going to put up with the ideals of what our country was founded on being ruined. America was founded as a white Christian nation.”
He had documentation to support his position as a Grand Dragon, but News4Jax could not independently verify his claim.
Ken, who met with News4Jax at his Southside home, said he’s been in the KKK for a number of years and sounded off about several issues the organization is unhappy about, from immigration to interracial marriage to gay rights.
Those feelings were reflected in fliers that were distributed around Jacksonville on Friday.
"(I was) just shocked — shocked for that to happen in Riverside," Myles Joyner said. "You know, (it's a) multicultural area."
Members of the African American community, gay community and Muslim community in town were worried that they were being targeted when they saw the fliers, which were distributed with bags of rice to weigh them down.
The KKK fliers littered the parking lot of the Islamic Center on Dix Ellis Trail near Baymeadows Road and Interstate 95 on Friday night.
When Sameh Khayat walked out and found a flier he was concerned that Muslims were being targeted.
“I was worried with the Paris attack,” Khayat said. “We were fearing backlashes, and so we didn’t know that — until today when you called me and one of my coworkers saw one in Riverside, so I knew they were aiming at different people.”
Nearby in San Jose, neighbors were canvassed as well with fliers that read things like “Had enough busing?” “Had enough integration?” “Had enough race-mixing?”
Surveillance video showed people inside a champagne colored truck was seen in one neighborhood throwing the bags onto people’s properties.
“It doesn’t scare me, like being afraid,” Bill Emmerich said. “I’m more afraid of ISIS than I am that.”
In Riverside, the fliers expressed anti-gay sentiments, reading “Stop AIDS, support gay bashing.”
“It’s really disturbing,” Steven Peano said. “I don’t know if we were targeted directly or it’s just randomly distributed. But either way it’s kind of scary. It really bothered me.”
"We've been just kind of laying in wait," Ken said. "Time sprung up and we decided to take action. You'll be seeing a lot more of us."
He said the fliers are just the beginning and that other KKK members have been recruiting recently in Tallahassee, but will be continuing recruitment across the state.
"I'm not against other races," Ken said. "I'm against other races ruining my country. They can go back to Africa. I don't care."
Ken said the city's discussion on the Human Rights Ordinance was one concern that led to the distribution of the fliers.
“The HRO is out there promoting all this homosexual activity. We do not stand for that. It's disgusting,” Ken said.
He said that wasn't the only reason for the recruitment drive, though, which he said will continue with future public displays.
“I'm not going to put any details out there. We've already kicked off a major recruitment drive, and you're not going to see us go away any time soon,” Ken said. "We're getting a very positive response. My phone's being going off the hook all day long. I've had probably 200 phone calls (of) people wanting to join today."
"This should be about peace (and) good vibes," Joyner said. "We should all love each other. Those people who hand out those pamphlets don't stand for anything pure, anything good."
Police said they are not treating the fliers as a crime right now.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the distribution of the fliers doesn't meet the legal requirements of a hate crime because no violence was committed.
Smith said that the KKK has been raising its profile in recent months after the Charleston church massacre and increasing controversy over the Confederate flag.
“From states as far as California, Mississippi, Kansas,” Smith said. “And it’s been a very strong effort.”
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