KKK Flyers in Carlisle Under Investigation

Rachael Franchini ’19, Co-Editor-in-Chief

In light of the distribution of flyers with a message from the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in Carlisle, Police Safety Coordinator for the Carlisle Police Department (CPD) verified that “the investigations are still ongoing.”

CPD was notified on Feb. 2 of flyers bearing the logo of the Ku Klux Klan, a web address for the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and a phone number accompanied by the words “call to join.” No flyers were circulated on the Dickinson College campus.

Assistant Vice President of Compliance and Campus Safety and chief of Public Safety (DPS) Dee Danser said Dickinson is not involved in the CPD investigation.

“We are asking anyone who sees anything to notify us as soon as possible so we can get the information to the appropriate authorities,” Danser stated in an email to The Dickinsonian.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which defines itself as an anti-hate organization, qualifies the Loyal White Knights as “one of the largest and most active Klan groups in the United States.” According to the ADL, these members follow “traditional Klan ideology infused with neo-Nazi beliefs” and are known for their distribution of propaganda that is racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, homophobic and Islamophobic in nature. The Dickinsonian received a propaganda flyer to its Dickinson College mailing address from the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan during the 2016-2017 academic year.

“Central Pennsylvania is a hotbed for various types of white supremacists and hate groups,” stated Say Burgin, assistant professor of history. “[None] of us should necessarily be surprised that at this moment there was an attempt to reinvigorate hate and white supremacist groups,” she said, noting the KKK’s long history in central Pennsylvania. 

“In the 1920s, Lancaster county had one of the highest membership rates of anywhere in the country of the Klan,” Burgin said. Lancaster is also in central Pennsylvania, the location of peer college Franklin & Marshall, “…but we tend to think about the Klan as a very southern phenomenon.”

The KKK’s most notable previous presence in Carlisle was in September 2000, when the Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan brought nearly two dozen hooded demonstrators to the corner of North Hanover Street and West High Street in Carlisle, according to an article published by The Sentinel. A “show of community solidarity against the Klan and what it represents” was held at Biddle Field, according to David Strand, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science and chair of the political science department, who was in attendance at this event on Sept. 23, 2000, rather than an engagement with the Klansmen.

The same article by The Sentinel reported more than 2,000 people were at this “Unity Celebration” including then-Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge. The event was also covered by The Dickinsonian, which reports a turnout of nearly 3,000.

“The idea was to bring people together to emphasize support for tolerance and inclusivity,” Strand stated. “It was a very disturbing event, and the choice seemed to be trying to mount a demonstration to confront the Klan but since they often want that, that’s what they’re aiming to do, that it made more sense to, within our own community, stand together against hatred…. It [was] not a demonstration only against the Klan, it [was] for everything that the college and Carlisle stand for.”

“The folks who have been interested in organizing along the kind of Klan’s ideology have been here for a really long time,” stated Burgin. “The reality is that its politics are here still.”

Burgin said that every so often a resurgence of the KKK and similar organizations sweeps various parts of the U.S., “including central Pennsylvania,” to gauge interest for the group. “But I think the kind of larger point…is there are a lot of ways to…find out if there are people interested…. There are a lot of ways to do that that don’t include flyering, and so that kind of creating a tangible propaganda is a way of certainly just making people feel watched, making people feel scared, making people feel like there is perhaps a larger presence than there is…it is a way of inflicting terror in and of itself.”

“The whole point is [the Ku Klux Klan] want[s] people to feel threatened. That’s the stated purpose historically of the Klan, to make people feel threatened, unsafe, and watched, and unwelcome,” she said.

President Margee Ensign addressed the flyers in an email to the Dickinson community, writing that she was “outraged” and called the dissemination of this information “deeply disturbing.”

The Feb. 4 email established that “[h]ate has no place at Dickinson, in Carlisle or in America.” It also offered ways for students to get involved with inclusivity on campus.

“The Klan is in all kinds of places,” stated Strand, “but this is where we are. Make your stand where you are.”