CINCINNATI — Many residents of Hillsboro, Ohio, woke Sunday to find Ku Klux Klan fliers on their automobile windshields, part of a large recruiting effort by a North Carolina-based Klan branch, a watchdog group told The Enquirer on Tuesday.
The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Eden, N.C., but with chapters in 16 states, including Ohio and Kentucky, are trying to attract new members, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The nation's third-largest Klan group, the White Knights held a rally Saturday in Tennessee, according to the center, a civil rights legal group based in Montgomery, Ala., that monitors hate groups and their activities nationally. The White Knights also distributed leaflets in June in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"Help Save Our Race: Everything we cherish is under assault by ZOG," the one-page flier reads. ZOG is a white supremacist acronym for "Zionist Occupied Government."
The flier features an image of a hooded Klan member in front of a Confederate battle flag.
Hillsboro, the government seat of Highland County, has a population of 6,500 and is about 60 miles east of Cincinnati.
The extent of activity for many Klan groups is this type of leafleting, said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"But this was the group that on March 30, in Memphis, Tenn., marched to protest the changing of the Confederate names of three parks, including Nathan Bedford Forrest Park," named after an early Klan leader, Potok said.
Hillsboro Police Chief Nicholas Thompson told the Chillicothe Gazette that his officers "found several fliers that had been placed on vehicles downtown." He didn't know how many fliers were left around town.
"At this point, it doesn't appear any one individual has been targeted that we know of," Thompson told the Gazette, which, like The Enquirer, is owned by Gannett Co. Inc. "I haven't a clue where they came from. They just appeared."
Thompson said it's possible someone printed them from the website and distributed them locally. He said he consulted with Hillsboro Law Director Fred Beery, who said whoever distributed the fliers did nothing illegal.
Thompson called their distribution "unfortunate."
Fiona McGinty, 44, moved to downtown Hillsboro nine years ago from Cincinnati.
Her goal was to find a safer place for her son, then 15, to grow up. He is now 22 and a graduate of Hillsboro High School. And he is biracial; his father is African-American.
His car had five fliers on them, not just one.
"That was no accident," McGinty told The Enquirer on Tuesday.
"My son just laughed at it. He said, 'They can come after me if they want.' I don't think it's funny. It's very upsetting," she said.
She initially thought the single-page flier was a parking ticket.
"Join Today!!!" the flier reads. It lists a web address and a phone number.
"Greetings white brothers and sisters," is how the recorded message begins when a call is placed to the number on the flier. The Loyal White Knights refers to itself as one of the most active Klan groups in the country and said it is "fighting for equal rights for whites." People interested in joining are asked to leave their name and contact information.
The message ends, "Always remember, if it ain't white, it ain't right. White power."
Another Klan group, the Confederate White Knights, is seeking a permit to hold a rally this weekend at Gettysburg National Battlefield in Pennsylvania, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is billed as a First Amendment rally and is seeking to have President Barack Obama removed from office.
Obama's election in 2008 as the nation's first African-American president caused growth in existing hate groups and formation of new splinters. Since the end of 2008 – the number of anti-government groups, including armed militias, has grown 755 percent, from 149 to 1,274 in 2011.
The number of hate groups – which includes neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads, black separatists and others – has increased 69 percent since 2000 and now has reached 1,018 nationally, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
A majority of Americans now express prejudice toward African-Americans, even if they don't recognize those attitudes, according to an Associated Press survey released in October 2012.
Conducted with researchers from Stanford University, the University of Michigan and University of Chicago, the survey showed that the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments increased to 56 percent in 2012, up from 49 percent in 2008, when measured by an implicit racial attitudes test.