Ku Klux Klan (KKK) recruiting fliers were recently found on seats on a Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train, reminding New Yorkers that the hate group wasn’t relegated to activities exclusively south of the Mason-Dixon line. The incident marks the second time KKK fliers have surfaced since the presidential election.
NBC 4 New York reported this week that a commuter getting off a Montauk branch train of the LIRR in Amagansett earlier this month discovered a pair of Ku Klux Klan recruitment fliers resting on a couple of passenger seats. The commuter, Carlos Sandoval, took offense to the leaflets.
“As a person of color, I really felt personally attacked,” he told NBC 4 over Skype.
The fliers depicted a drawing of a hooded Klansman posed in the famous stance of the Uncle Sam recruitment posters of World War I, complete with the robed figure pointing at the reader along with the paraphrased words “The KKK Wants You!”
After Sandoval reported the finding to the LIRR, a spokesman for the railroad line spokesman said Tuesday that unless railroad rules or criminal statutes had been violated, no general prohibition against the distribution of literature on trains or platforms existed. However, the LIRR later stated to NBC 4 that “the passing out of any literature that is non-MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) literature is prohibited on all platforms and trains.” Any person caught in such an act could be fined $50 or removed from the train, they said.
KKK fliers were found on Long Island just after the 2016 presidential election in November as well.
Some turned up in the village of Patchogue, which has a large immigrant population, prompting the mayor to state, “Take your hatred and keep it in your own house.”
Still, the simple distribution of literature is not a crime, according to Suffolk Police.
The display of hate group messages came into question in 2015, according to CBS New York, when the MTA attempted to place a ban on political advertisement on the subway, buses, the LIRR, and Metro-North after a pro-Israel group displayed anti-Islamic ads, including one that read, “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.” A legal judgment ruled that such a prohibition would inhibit First Amendment rights.
As for the KKK, NBC 4 investigated claims in 2015 that the hate group’s presence was on the rise on the New York’s Long Island. Self-identified members of the group told the news station’s I-Team that the KKK was gaining “momentum… on Long Island, buttressed by support from white people who feel they have been disenfranchised by Jewish, black and immigrant residents in their neighborhoods.”
The report noted that KKK fliers had been reported in various locations on Long Island in 2014. According to the Suffolk County Hate Crimes Unit, which tracks incidents of intolerance in the area, there were 83 such cases recorded in 2013 and 87 in 2014. The incidents reported ranged from swastika graffiti at train stations to acts of bias against people of color. Authorities pointed out that some cases go unreported, but even those that are sometimes lack sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to make an arrest.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Montgomery, Alabama, have long tracked hate groups and movements within the United States. The civil rights organization placed over a dozen KKK chapters operating above the Mason-Dixon line (the traditional border — the actual state line separating Maryland and Pennsylvania — between the northern and southern portions of the United States) on their website’s “Hate Map.”
The SPLC notes that there has been a doubling of the number of active hate groups in the U.S. since the turn of the millennium. The number of groups in operation reached a high of 1,018 in 2011 and gradually fell again to 784 in 2014. However, the number precipitously spiked in 2015 (during the initial months of the 2016 presidential election) with a recorded 892 groups. The total number of organized KKK hate groups operating throughout the U.S. in 2015 was 190.
[Featured Image by Tim Boyle/Getty Images]