Ku Klux Klan membership in steep decline, report says

The Times-Picayune/May 11, 2016

By Richard A. Webster

More than 90 years ago, 40,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. The legion of white-hooded racists, holding aloft U.S. flags, stormed the nation's capital in a show of power and an attempt to refute reports of the secret society's waning influence and ranks.

Today, given its shrinking numbers, it's unlikely the Klan could fill the aisle of a local supermarket, much less Pennsylvania Avenue, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League. It found that the Ku Klux Klan is down to around 30 groups and 3,000 members nationwide, located primarily in the South and east of the Mississippi River. There are a few Klan chapters that have 50 to 200 members, but most are considerably smaller, consisting of just a handful of members, according to the study.

"What remains of the Klan is a collection of mostly small and disjointed groups that have difficulty in recruiting members and even maintaining any semblance of long-term stability," said Allison Padilla-Goodman, director of the South-Central region of the Anti-Defamation League. "Klan groups form and dissolve just as quickly, and few longstanding groups still exist. Even those aren't very healthy."

The Loyal White Knights based in North Carolina are the most active Klan group with between 150 and 200 members. They have been known to distribute fliers in the New Orleans area, ADL researchers reported. Louisiana has one known group, the Dixie Rangers based in Choudrant, though it is a "very small and inactive Klan."

Highlights from the report include:

  • Distributing racist fliers has evolved into a key Klan tactic, as it requires few members to accomplish. In 2015, ADL counted 86 separate incidents in which Klan fliers were left on doorsteps or driveways in neighborhoods around the country, an increase from 73 similar incidents in 2014. Nine incidents of Klan flyer distribution were counted in Louisiana in 2015.
  • There were only three public Klan rallies across the United States in 2015. Klan organized rallies were held in Montgomery, Ala.; Columbia, S.C.; and at the University of Mississippi.
  • More than half of the currently active Klan groups were formed in the past five years, showing how short-lived and unstable today's KKK groups tend to be.

"While many are adept at exploiting the media by staging political endorsements, leafleting, and occasional rallies, most organized Klan groups suffer from a lack of cohesion and paucity of members, key factors in its long-term trend of decline," the report found. "Other factors in its decline include a perception that Klan groups are old or outdated, as well as the presence of other types of white supremacist groups that compete for membership with Klan groups."

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