By: M.L. Stein
Organization’s national imperial wizard confirms activities in multiple states;
latest incidents reported in Texas and California
In the latest in a spreading series of such incidents, newspapers in California and Texas report that a portion of their print runs have been commandeered for Ku Klux Klan recruitment drives.
In what it calls “newspaper night riding,” the Klan takes the newspapers from street racks, wraps them with its recruitment literature and then delivers that package to the lawns and doorsteps of local communities.
The latest newspapers to report Klan diversion of their print products are the Classified Gazette of Santa Rosa, Calif., and the Dallas Observer, Employment News, Greensheet and Thrifty Nickel around the Dallas region of Texas.
A dragon Speaks
In an interview with United Press International, Jody Chapman, grand dragon of the Texas Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, confirmed that his organization was diverting the papers for its regional promotional campaigns. A resident of Odessa, Texas, Chapman told UPI he intended to continue using newspapers in this manner “for the rest of his life.”
Many of the community members who receive such materials assume that the newspaper sold its insert advertising services to the KKK, one of the country’s oldest and most infamous hate groups. There are frequently angry reactions.
In Santa Rosa, Kathy Noble, Classified Gazette office manager, said the paper received “tons of complaints” from Santa Rosa residents after they received Klan literature in their papers. “People are understandably very upset,” she added. “And it’s implicating Gazette ties to the KKK, which is not true.”
E&P has previously reported that the Tri-County News and the Town Flyer newspapers of the Pittsburgh, Pa., area and the News-Sentinel and the California Job Journal of Lodi, Calif., have had sections of their print runs taken and redistributed as part of Klan promotional activities.
In most cases, the Klan takes current editions of free-circulation papers that are easily removed from their street racks. In one recent instance, it used out-of-date copies of a for-pay daily newspaper ? the Lodi News-Sentinel. Those copies are believed to have been taken from trash dumpsters.
the wizard says it’s legal
In an interview with the Indianapolis Star a few weeks ago, Jeff Berry, national imperial wizard of the KKK, confirmed his group was diverting newspapers in various states and said, “We checked with civil liberty lawyers and all that. And what we’re doing is legal.” Berry, who lives near Butler, Ind., said the Klan has distributed its literature with newspapers in several communities in that state although he did not identify the publications.
In reporting the latest California incident, the daily Santa Rosa Press Democrat, which was not targeted by the Klan, reported that the police didn’t know if any laws had been violated and were awaiting an opinion from the district attorney’s office. The paper added that an FBI spokesman in San Francisco said there was no clear violation of the law and, unless one can be shown, the leaflets are protected by the First Amendment.
Following the Lodi incident, Jim Ewart, an attorney for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said the KKK messages are protected by the First Amendment, but wrapping them around a paid publication runs afoul of the law in that it tampers with a product for sale. There is no constitutional cover for free newspapers or magazines, but they might be able to seek civil remedies for economic damage, he suggested.
Others suggested that the publishers’ only recourse was to file “theft of services” charges against the Klan because it is using the papers to deliver advertisements at the same time it has not paid for those ad insertions.
No publisher has yet taken legal action against the Klan and most have explained they don’t intend to in order to deny the organization any further publicity n
?(E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher May 2, 1998) [Caption]