When E.J. Lopez walked down the driveway of his Hampton Bays summer home on Friday morning to retrieve his mail, he was dismayed to find a plastic bag at the foot of his driveway. It contained three pieces of Starburst candy—and a pamphlet urging him to join the Ku Klux Klan.
Mr. Lopez and dozens of his neighbors on Columbine Avenue and nearby Washington Heights Avenue were the latest recipients of a weeks-long campaign to recruit Hampton Bays residents to the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights chapter of the KKK.
“It’s kind of embarrassing, in a way,” Mr. Lopez said on Friday. “I would never want to think of Hampton Bays having that kind of mentality.”
The packet includes a pamphlet labeled “A [sic] Introduction to The Platform and Principles Of The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,” which outlines the white supremacist group’s ideology. It maintains that borders should be closed to anyone who isn’t a white European, that the United States should promote “our unique European (White) culture,” and that homosexuality and abortion should be made illegal.
Robert Jones, Grand Dragon of the KKK in North Carolina, said klansmen throughout the country have been instructed to recruit more members to combat illegal immigration, although he admitted that he was not aware of the specific activity in Hampton Bays prior to being notified by The Press.
Mr. Jones said the main KKK stronghold in New York is located in Buffalo, although he declined to identify the leader of that chapter, known as an Exalted Cyclops, stating, “We don’t give out names—that’s why they call us ‘The Invisible Empire.’”
With at least one chapter in each of 38 states, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based organization aimed at combating bigotry, the Loyal White Knights are one of the more prolific branches of the KKK, an organization known historically for using intimidation and violence against minorities, particularly blacks.
Although Mr. Jones said he believes all gays should be killed, and he expressed a desire for a second American Civil War to take place during his lifetime, he maintains that the KKK is a non-violent organization, saying, “We don’t really hate no race—we just hate what they do.”
Also included in the packets distributed in Hampton Bays were applications to join the organization and a crude piece of propaganda that appears to depict caricatures of a Jewish man, a black man and a Hispanic man topped by a headline reading, “Beware!” There is also text underneath stating: “We want your jobs—we want your homes—we want your country.”
The Southampton Town Police first got word of the passive recruitment effort in late July, when residents of Fanning Avenue reported receiving the informational pamphlet. One Fanning Avenue resident reported seeing two white, middle-aged men posting pamphlets on people’s mailboxes during the middle of the day on July 19.
Town Police Sergeant Todd Bennett, who represents the department on the Southampton Town Anti-Bias Task Force, said the department has received several other complaints of KKK recruitment material being distributed throughout the hamlet, and has notified the Suffolk County Police Hate Crimes Unit. Town Police said they weren’t aware of any similar efforts going on anywhere other than Hampton Bays.
Sgt. Bennett also said this week that police did not announce the previous incidents publicly because they have spent the past month trying to track and identify the trend. He said it was unclear who is distributing the literature or what relation, if any, they actually have to the KKK, although he said whoever is doing it does not seem to be targeting specific homes but rather distributing their information widely to entire blocks at time.
Even if police were able to identify the person or persons responsible for distributing the material, they could not charge them with a crime—the literature constitutes free speech and is protected by the First Amendment, according to authorities.
The packets are being left outside mailboxes, typically on nearby driveways, or left hanging from mailboxes, according to those who have been receiving them. The literature contains no direct threats to any one group, nor does it explicitly advocate violence.
“It’s a brochure, no different than anyone else’s. It’s protected as free speech,” Sgt. Bennett said. “But we still want to know why they’re being put out. It doesn’t seem to be targeting any specific group.”
It is illegal, however, for non-postal employees to place materials that do not contain postage inside mailboxes.
Lisa Ancona, who frequently stays with her boyfriend in his home on Columbine Avenue, said she was appalled when she saw the packet that had been left in her driveway. “I just think it’s disgusting,” she said. “It’s 2014—this shouldn’t be happening.”
Paul Zeiser, a 22-year resident of Hampton Bays, said he’s never seen anything like it, although he has heard some people in the area, particularly those in the contracting and construction industries, complain about the influx of immigrants and migrant workers into the area, which he suspects is why Hampton Bays has been targeted.
Mr. Zeiser said he planned on sending the packet to U.S. Representative Tim Bishop to see if the congressman could address the issue, although Mr. Zeiser said he’s not particularly concerned about the Klan gaining a big following in this area. “They look like a desperate organization,” he said. “They’re clearly looking for members to give them money.”
The application says there is an initial fee of $20 and a monthly membership fee of $10.
Shirley Centeno, who has lived on Columbine Avenue for five years, was shocked when she was handed a copy of the material sitting at the end of her driveway by a reporter. “Oh, my God,” she repeatedly gasped as she read through the material for the first time.
Ms. Centeno said the pamphlets were disconcerting because of the violent history of the KKK, which has included acts of violence and the murder of African-Americans in the South.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before—this is not right,” she said. “This is, like, a really good neighborhood.”
Mr. Lopez, who has owned his home on Columbine Avenue with his husband, Julio, since 2007, said he has never felt any racial tension in his neighborhood, and in fact has always viewed it to be an eclectic mix of people who seem to get along well. Because of this, Mr. Lopez continued, he was curious as to why the KKK would seek members in the community.
“Where we live is a very diverse area,” he said, “so you’re not gonna attract too many Nazis.”
Mr. Lopez said while he didn’t feel personally targeted or threatened by the material, he remains concerned for his neighbors, particularly those who are immigrants from Latin America.
Mr. Jones said the purpose of the recruitment campaign is not meant to threaten non-whites or non-Christians, or anyone else not accepted by the KKK—although he does not mind if that happens. “I don’t care if I offend a homosexual by spreading the word and practicing free speech,” he said. “It’s not to threaten to them. It’s to wake up more white Christians to defend our country.
“These homosexuals,” he continued, “the only reason they’re alive is because our government refuses to kill them, so I don’t care if I offend them.”
The packet gives an address for the organization in Pelham, North Carolina, as well as a “Klan Hot line” number that directs callers to an outgoing message from Mr. Jones that celebrates the recent killing of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, by local police, and also urges whites to arm themselves. “If it ain’t white, it ain’t right. White power,” the message ends.
Sgt. Bennett said there have been previous instances in which inflammatory literature has been distributed in Hampton Bays, as well as in other parts of Southampton Town, but never with the same sort of volume.
“We’ve had different pamphlets, not just the KKK. It has popped up in the past, just not to this extent,” he said. “They’ll hit one street, then move on to another in a different part of town.”
Town Police will continue to track the distribution of the materials, Sgt. Bennett said, urging anyone who receives a packet, or has any information on them, to contact him directly at (631) 702-2227.