CONOWINGO — Residents of at least two communities awoke Sunday morning to find an invitation at their door to join the Ku Klux Klan.
Callers to the Cecil Whig — who wished to remain anonymous for fear for retribution — reported reactions to the photocopied missive that ranged from shock to sadness to anger.
“This is not what I want for my community,” said a Port Deposit mother of six. “It’s really, really upsetting.”
“My 4-year-old was very upset,” the woman said, adding her youngest doesn’t understand “why anyone would want to hurt someone else based on the color of their skin.”
Her 6-year-old called it a bad dream.
The single sheet of paper, which appears to have been distributed by the East Coast Knights of the True Invisible Empire, announces that “White pride doesn’t mean hate.”
The flier asks the reader numerous questions including:
“Why is it OK for other races to be proud?”
“Why are we not allowed to celebrate our culture?”
“Why are other races in this country allowed these rights, as they should, but not the folk of European ancestry?”
A woman who identified herself only as Danielle said the Girardville, Pa., group distributed 500 fliers all over Cecil County on Saturday evening as part of a nationwide campaign by like-minded groups called a “fire run.”
“We were leaving them for people to pick up at their leisure,” she said Monday. “We let them make their own decision.”
Wayne Tome, mayor of Port Deposit, wasn’t pleased with the covert delivery.
“They’re cowards and I am appalled,” he said Monday.
A Conowingo woman said it was her 14-year-old grandson who found the flier in a plastic bag held down by rocks at the end of her driveway.
“I was surprised because it’s been so long since I have heard anything like this around here,” the lifelong Cecil County resident said Monday. “The last time I remember the KKK was back in 1999 standing on the streets of Rising Sun in their hoods handing out information.”
Klan-affiliated groups from Pennsylvania and Baltimore were represented at a December 2013 meeting held at the Cecil County Administration building, which county officials allowed on a First Amendment right to free speech basis only. The Confederate White Knights led by Richard Preston hosted the meeting, announcing that their new agenda focused on politics rather than hatred. The East Coast Knights were the other organization of record.
“I don’t agree with its message,” the Conowingo woman said. “I do feel we all have a right of freedom of speech and religion, however, not at others’ expense.”
She added that her grandson went back out and collected the fliers lying at the end of other nearby drives.
“He was really surprised. He’s never seen anything like that before,” the woman said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that has long tracked hate groups in America, places the KKK on a list of hate groups in Maryland that also includes black separatists, Neo-Nazis, Skinheads, white nationalists and Neo-Confederates. All the groups are headquartered from Baltimore to points south.
According to Danielle, the East Coast Knights is not a white supremacist group.
“That’s not the message we are trying to relay,” she said. “Our goal is not to scare anyone. We have zero tolerance for violence.”
“We are white separatists,” she said. “We don’t want white people to feel ashamed for being white.”
Danielle said that since the fliers have been discovered there have been calls to the Pennsylvania phone number included in the message. She said some of the calls were positive while others were not.