Klan Leaflets Denounced in Manassas
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Dozens of Ku Klux Klan leaflets calling for a ban on "all non-white immigration" were distributed last weekend in Manassas, where a dispute over illegal immigration has raised tensions in recent weeks.
The leaflets, dropped at night into mailboxes and on driveways along one street, urged "white Christian America" to stand up for its rights. Smatterings of racist literature are distributed in communities throughout the region every few weeks, but this incident struck a raw nerve in Manassas.
Klan officials, who are based in Arkansas, said yesterday that Virginia residents had asked them for Klan literature to deliver in Manassas.
In Prince William County, officials are trying to restrict public services to illegal immigrants and allow local police to take action against them. Latino activist groups are staging marches and boycotts to protest the proposed measures, which they denounce as racist and anti-Latino.
"We have heard from people all over Virginia, including Manassas, who are concerned about quality-of-life issues including gangs, violence and drugs," said Travis Pierce, a Klan official, speaking by telephone from Compton, Ark. "We put out leaflets to bring these problems to the attention of the local authorities. . . . Our concerns are legitimate, and our actions are legal."
Officials and activists on both sides of the immigration debate in Prince William rejected the Klan's message and actions, which came to light when homeowners on one street in Manassas said over the weekend that they had found several dozen Klan leaflets in their mailboxes or on their driveways.
"This is totally over the top. It is something the citizens here will universally condemn," said Greg Letiecq, an activist who opposes illegal immigration and heads a group called Help Save Manassas. The group complains that the large influx of Latino immigrants to the region, including many who are illegal, has burdened public services and caused neighborhoods to deteriorate.
Marc T. Aveni, a member of the Manassas City Council, said that the Klan should stay away from the area and that its actions were not productive.
"We don't want this here," he told Potomac News Online. "I 100-percent condemn this sort of thing."
Pro-immigrant activists in Prince William, led by the group Mexicans Without Borders, condemned the Klan activities in even stronger terms. They said the Klan leaflets showed that local efforts to curb illegal immigration had created a "hostile environment" toward immigrants and minorities.
"Any time lawmakers pass initiatives that . . . single out a segment of the population and try to drive them out of the community, they are laying the foundation for increased bigotry and hatred," Mexicans Without Borders said in a statement issued yesterday in response to the reports of Klan leafleting. They said a recent wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric had "opened the door to racist organizations."
Some local residents suggested that the immigrant groups had drawn distant "fringe elements" to the region, especially by staging a week-long economic boycott and a protest rally this month. But Pierce said the people who handed out the Klan leaflets were all Virginia residents who "love their nation and see the problems too."
The leaflets contain a brief history of the Klan, tell how to contact and join the group, and urge "white Christian Americans" to unite in defense against a variety of issues, including drugs, gang violence and pornography. They also opposed immigration by Mexicans and other "non-white" groups, who they said seek to "take over" the country.
Police said no problems or incidents were reported in connection with the leafleting, and no arrests were made.
Although Klan activities are focused in the U.S. South, its members have periodically distributed similar material in other communities in the Washington area where racial or immigration issues have heated up. Klan recruiting leaflets were found in Frederick in 1999, and a Klan march was held in Annapolis in 1998.