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Ku Klux Klan re-emerging

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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The Southern Poverty Law Center, which counts chapters of the Ku Klux Klan every year, reported that there are currently three chapters in Michigan, the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, located in Fraser; New Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in central Michigan Beal City in Isabella County, ; and Invisible Knights of the Fiery Cross, headquartered in Gladwin, in Gladwin County, next to Isabella County.

Gladwin County Sheriff Mike Shea said, "As far as I know, we don't have any indications of any activity in Gladwin County. If there's any activity in Gladwin County, I and my administrators and associates don't know about it."

Tony Wickersham, Macomb County sheriff, said, "There's nothing really. Not many hate crimes. I know there has been ethnic intimidation and someone has been provoked because of their race or religion, but nothing with the KKK."

Neither the Fraser Police Department, nor the Isabella County Sheriff, returned calls.

Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said their office hasn't observed any KKK activity in 10 years or more in Oakland County. Yet in 2009, an Oakland County African American family discovered a burning cross in their yard.

Despite smaller numbers and a lower profile, the Klan is still, in every way, a racist and exclusionary organization looking to make its members feel superior to everyone else. Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, which investigates hate and racist organizations, said, "The modern-day Klan, with its membership much shrunken, is fundamentally racist – anti-Latino, anti-immigrant, anti-gay."

After all, the first question on the Klan's membership application asks, "Are you a native-born, white, non-Jewish, American citizen?"

"I was involved in several Klan groups – actually four different ones. If any Klan had a white supremacist agenda, I was there," Shepherd said. "I was also involved with the National Association of the Advancement of White People, with David Duke for several years."

It is estimated there are about 5,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan nationwide, with strong membership in states like Colorado, Indiana and Illinois, as well as traditional southern states like Mississippi and Arkansas, which Potok hastens to point out is small compared to its historical eras.

"In the 1920s, there were estimated to be about 4 million members of the Klan. That was the second era of the Klan. In the third era, the mid-1960s, during the civil rights era, there were about 40,000 Klansmen. Then the Klan was incredibly violent," Potok said. "Today, a lot of them are sitting around drinking beer and writing posts on the web."

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