New Report Cites National Growth in the Ku Klux Klan; Racist Groups on the Rise in Michigan

A new report by the Anti-Defamation League has documented a rise in Ku Klux Klan activity across the United States, specifically identifying the Michigan-based United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan as an example of a growing klan group.

A new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization that monitors hate groups and hate crimes in the United States, has documented a substantial increase in activity by Ku Klux Klan groups over the past couple of years. The ADL has documented a reversal in what had been a steady decline in Klan activity with existing groups expanding and increasing their activity, new groups appearing and creating racial tensions in communities previously unaffected by organized white supremacist groups, the Klan expanding its reach across the United States, cooperating with neo-nazi and other racist groups, and making more successful use of the internet. As always, while the ADL does offer some important and useful information, is important for those fighting the racist right from a left perspective to remember that the ADL has never been friends of militant movements to confront racism and fascism, and indeed the organization talks about the violent extremism of the Weather Underground and the alleged convergence between the racist right and the anti-globalization left and anarchist movements.

The ADL attributes the Klan’s increase in activity due to its “successful exploitation of hot-button issues including immigration, gay marriage, and urban crime.” As other white supremacist groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens and the American Renaissance have seized on immigration as an issue through which they can attempt to organized misinformed white people, the Klan has attempted to insert themselves into the anti-immigration movement. While not particularly well-known, the Klan in the 1970s and 1980s ran a series of armed border patrol actions on the United States-Mexico border, thereby being both a tactical and ideological precursor to the vigilante Minuteman movement. Moreover, klan groups across the country have increasingly worked with other racist groups and appeared at rallies with the National Socialist Movement and have attended white supremacist “unity” events seeking to reduce sectarianism. At the same time, the ADL reports that the modern Klan has become increasingly “nazified” with its members participating more in the skinhead and neo-nazi subcultures than they had in the past. Groups associated with the Ku Klux Klan, which has for a long time been fragmented and without a serious national structure, have also taken the beginning steps towards unifying their movement.

Here in Michigan, there has also been an increase in activity by the racist right over the past year. While the ADL report cites the Michigan-based United and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan as an example of a klan group that has grown over the past year and describing how it spread rapidly after breaking from the Ohio-based Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the majority of the activity by the racist right in Michigan over the past year has not been organized by the Ku Klux Klan. The Michigan Unit of the prominent neo-nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) was quite active in Michigan in 2006, organizing a variety of localized actions, hosting the National Socialist Movement’s national conference in Grand Rapids in April, and hosting a national rally in Lansing. Racist groups were particularly emboldened by the passage of the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2 (Michigan Civil Rights Initiative) in November, and indeed groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens and the aforementioned United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan were the only groups that publicly supported the measure. While the question of what role the two organizations actually played in the passage of the measure is up for debate, especially with the two groups primarily writing letters to newspapers or distributing flyers and neither having a particularly large constituency, both groups have taken credit for the passage of Proposal 2. The fact that these groups supported the measure not only shows the racism that was at the root of the initiative, but it also gives a “victory” to organize around and both groups intend to remain active in 2007. Michigan also saw the formation of the European American Association last year, a group that brought Canadian fascist Paul Fromm to Lansing while at the same time cloaking its racism in language talking about “western civilization” rather than white power. In October of 2006, Detroit was the site of the annual Hammer Fest, organized by the skinhead Hammerskin nation.

Proposal 2 Backer on the KKK: "God Bless Them"

Ward Connerly, the primary financial supporter of anti-affirmative action Proposal 2, can be seen saying “god bless them” regarding the Ku Klux Klan’s support of Proposal 2 according to research conducted by Media Mouse.

Ward Connerly, the primary financial supporter of the anti-affirmative action Proposal 2 (the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative), can be seen in a video interview saying “god bless them” regarding the Ku Klux Klan’s position in support of Proposal 2 according to research conducted by Media Mouse. The clip, shown below, features Michigan Civil Rights Commission member Michael Bernstein stating that the Ku Klux Klan is one of the only organized entities to support the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), to which Connerly responds “If the Ku Klux Klan thinks that equality is right, god bless them.”

The comment appears in a DVD documentary titled “Arise: The Battle over Affirmative Action” that looks at the nationwide movement to eliminate affirmative action. The video was produced by Firelight Media with the clip above highlighting both the ongoing support of white supremacist and racist organizations for Proposal 2 as well as the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s failure to adequately address why racist organizations are endorsing Proposal 2. Beginning with the signature gathering process in 2004, racist organizations have supported Proposal 2, with the Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan organizing its members to circulate petitions to place the anti-affirmative action proposal on the ballot. This participation by the Ku Klux Klan has continued, with the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan supporting the proposal by distributing literature both earlier this year and last month urging people to vote in favor of Proposal 2. The most vocal support of Proposal 2 by racist groups has come from the Michigan chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that has organized a public rally, hosted meetings to discuss organizing strategies, coordinated a letter writing campaign to newspapers, and made a lengthy document supporting the MCRI available on their website. Moreover, Caledonia resident and leader of the Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens, John Raterink, has been photographed shaking the hand of Ward Connerly.

Despite the fact that white supremacist organizations continue to organize in support of Proposal 2, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative spokespeople have failed to adequately address this support and what exactly it means if white supremacists are some of the only organized groups supporting Proposal 2. In addition to the “god bless them” comment regarding the Ku Klux Klan from Ward Connerly, the MCRI has tended to downplay the support of these organizations by arguing that they did seek it out. However, the dismissive attitude displayed by Connerly and Jennfier Gratz, the executive director of the MCRI, has amounted to tacit support advocacy by the Klan and other racists, with Gratz being asked in the Grand Rapids Press on October 24 about the support of the Council of Conservative Citizens, to which she responded that “even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

It should be seen as no surprise that groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Council of Conservative Citizens are supporting Proposal 2, as it is an initiative clearly designed to eliminate the gains of the civil rights movement. While affirmative action has been a positive step in addressing the history of institutional and systematic oppression of people of color and women by providing opportunity and access to educational institutions and employment, the elimination of affirmative action would mean a return to Jim Crow era de facto segregation and racism. The threat posed by eliminating affirmative action is very real in any state, but especially in Michigan, as the state is one of the most segregated states in the country.

Ku Klux Klan Distributes Literature Supporting Proposal 2

Three weeks after Media Mouse revealed that white supremacist groups in Michigan are organizing support for the passage of the anti-affirmative action Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (Proposal 2), there are new reports that these organizations are continuing to organize support for the measure. A Ku Klux Klan group has distributed literature advocating for the passage of the proposal while the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens has organized a letter writing campaign in support of the proposal.

Last month, Media Mouse published an article showing how white supremacist organizations are supporting Proposal 2/the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). The Michigan chapter leader of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, John Raterink, has used his organization to actively support the campaign and has even highlighted a photograph of himself shaking the hand of Ward Connerly, the primary financial backer of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). In addition, Media Mouse documented the fact that two Ku Klux Klan groups in Michigan have also supported the MCRI, both in campaigning for the proposal now that it is on the ballot and in collecting signatures to place it on the ballot. An article based on our research was published last month in the Grand Rapids Press that cited Jennifer Gratz, the Executive Director of the MCRI, saying that “even a broken clock is right twice a day,” essentially stating that while they did not ask for the Council of Conservative Citizens support, that they are right to oppose affirmative action. Ward Connerly, similarly stated that these issues of racism are a distraction from the real issue. However, the support given by white supremacist organizations cannot be ignored, both in terms of the what it says about the intent of the proposal and because it keeps coming up. An article published last month in the Detroit Free Press highlighted the fact that the Ku Klux Klan recently distributed literature supporting the MCRI in southeast Michigan. According to the article, the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan distributed copies of the March 2006 issue of the Klansmen’s Voice, a nationally distributed Ku Klux Klan newspaper, that features quotes Jennifer Gratz of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

Moreover, the Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens is currently running a campaign of letter writing in support of the MCRI. According to the organization, they are writing letters to the editor of Michigan newspapers in support of Proposal 2. These letters have appeared in The Grand Rapids Press (October 8) and the Battle Creek Enquirer (October 8). It is worth noting that in the case of the Grand Rapids Press editorial, it was signed “John Raterink, Chairman, Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens,” with no disclaimer stating that the Council is a white supremacist organization. Raterink has also posted on the American Renaissance website about how the Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens will be “doubling its efforts” on the issue. The American Renaissance is a racist newspaper that attempts to develop a scientific justification for racism while ignoring the more overt forms of racism practiced by the Ku Klux Klan and neo-nazi groups.

Racist Groups Organize Support of Anti-Affirmative Action Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI)

The anti-affirmative action Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) has received some dubious support from two racist groups active in Michigan. The Council of Conservative Citizens and the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan have called on their members to organize for the passage of the MCRI. This is not a first for the MCRI, in 2004 it was supported by the Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan who encouraged its members to circulate petitions to get the initiative on the ballot.

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), a ballot initiative to eliminate affirmative action programs in Michigan, is being supported by at least two white supremacist groups active in the state. The Michigan chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens and the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are both actively encouraging their members to vote in favor of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative when it appears on the ballot on November 7 and organizing to build further support for the initiative. Ward Connerly has even had his picture taken shaking the hand of Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens leader John Raterink (Raterink has also subscribed to the newspaper of the neo-nazi National Alliance:

ward connerly and john raterink

The Michigan chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, an affiliate of the national Council of Conservative Citizens, has taken an active role in supporting the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. As of October 13, 2006, the Michigan Council of Conservative Citizens’ website has a large banner encouraging people to “Vote YES on Proposal 2.” This encouragement comes along with at least one public rally held on July 30, 2006 in Jackson, Michigan to promote the passage of the MCRI. At the rally, members of the Council of Conservative Citizens held signs reading “Stop Gov’t Racism” and “Stop Racist Quotas” while planning to hear from United States Taxpayers Party candidate for Attorney General Chuck Conces. In addition, the group has organized at least two meetings to discuss “upcoming ballot issues and strategies for the November election” in Michigan. The Council of Conservative Citizens, while claiming to be a “white separatist” group and denying charges of white supremacy, holds many views that are racist or white supremacist. The group believes that “the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character,” opposes immigration from “non-European and non-Western peoples” as it “threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime,” is opposed to all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called ‘affirmative action’ and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races,” and opposes “multiculturalist” or “Afrocentric” curricula in the education system. The group itself was formed in 1985 and is an outgrowth of the White Citizens’ Council movement, organized against desegregation in the 1950s and 1960s. The WCC’s strategy was to distinguish itself from the overt racism of the Ku Klux Klan and to rely on connections with bankers, the media, and politicians to preserve segregation. The Council of Conservative Citizens was organized by former White Citizens’ Council organizer Gordon Lee Baum and was built up in part from old WCC mailing lists.

Another racist group in Michigan, the Michigan Realm of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (one of the various splinter groups of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)), based out of Fraser, Michigan, has also called on its members and supporters to “get rid of affirmative action” in Michigan. Grand Dragon Eric Kent wrote on the organization’s website that it is “extremely crucial to our state as White Christians we can no longer stay on the side lines and let our civil liberties be removed due to affirmative action [grammar errors are in the website text]” while going on to claim that if white residents of Michigan lose their jobs that they “will not receive any aid… simply because you [they] are white.” Kent urges “white people” to become more active by distributing literature anonymously. Some of this literature is available online, including an affirmative action leaflet titled “Affirmative Action is Racism in Action” and encouraging white people to organize and “wake up” because “A black student accepted into college over a better scoring white student simply because they are Black.” Another leaflet, titled “Stop Racism!,” encourages whites to organize against “a society oriented to the wishes of non-whites” with whites “faced with reverse discrimination in jobs, promotions and scholarships-high taxes for non-whites welfare- a black and Hispanic plague of crime- gun control- anti white movies and TV shows.” Another Ku Klux Klan group, the Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan issued a statement in 2004 supporting the MCRI and urging members and supporters to gather signatures to put the MCRI on ballot. The Mystic Knights archived website describes that they “are collecting signatures to get a constitutional amendment banning racial preferences on the ballot for the next election” and contains information for obtaining petition sheets from the MCRI.

While these are the only known ties between the racist right and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, the MCRI has ties to the far right through their funding of organizations led by Ward Connerly. A review of financial data from the Michigan Secretary of State’s office shows that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative—through the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Committee—has been largely supported by the Connerly-headed American Civil Rights Coalition, which was formed in 1997 as part of a coordinated national campaign with the American Civil Rights Institute to end affirmative action. Its unclear who the individuals behind the American Civil Rights Coalition are, but if funding of Connerly’s effort to pass Proposition 54 in California (a failed effort to prevent the state of California from collecting racial data) is any indication, it is likely the far right that Connerly associates himself with. The Proposition 54 campaign received $250,000 from the long time far right financial backer Joseph Coors, $300,000 from Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch, and $200,000 from William J Hume of the anti-labor Basic American Foods. Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute has also received funding from prominent foundations supporting the far right including the Lynne and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Richard Mellon Scaiffe Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation. This funding has totaled $5.1 million from 1997 to 2005.