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Watch group says the KKK is making a comeback

Nov. 26, 2003
Janice Broach • Sunday November 30, 2003

A Ku Klux Klan initiation shooting in Johnson City is raising new questions about the Klan’s presence in the South. A man says he mistakenly fired a 9 millimeter handgun instead of a paintball gun at a recruit last Saturday. The recruit is listed in critical condition.

A watch group says the Klan is making a comeback thanks to new technology. For years the Ku Klux Klan has been a dying hate group. But the technology is helping the Klan recruit. And HateWatch says six groups are recruiting in Tennessee.

It’s not often you see violent Klan rallies like this one back in 1989 in Pulaski Tennessee. The Klan has been in decline for years, but that may be changing. The group in that Johnson City Klan initiation shooting is part of a Klan faction called America’s Invisible Empire, one of six fledgling groups monitored by HateWatch. And Hate Watch says the Klan is making a comeback via the Internet.

LeMoyne Owen associate professor Dr. James Takona says it’s an effective way to reach out. “That would be a fast way to do it, inexpensive way to do it and probably much more accessible to most people.” The Internet allows the Klan to remain secretive. The public likely would never have known about that Johnson City initiation held in the dark woods, if the shooting hadn’t happened. The Internet allows the Klan to remain underground. “It opens up a whole new area of recruitment for them. You know in the past you had to put a sheet on and go downtown and demonstrate in an organization like the Klan and now you can sit in your den use an alias join these groups and never leave the comfort of your home.” Hate Watch keeps track of all hate groups.

The Klan is usually found in rural areas where people are more isolated and direct their hate toward groups they have little or no contact with. The Klan has been losing younger people to neo-Nazi groups. Hate Watch says the Klan is now targeting middle aged men.

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