MILLVILLE — Local Ku Klux Klan leader Joseph V. Bednarsky Jr. has resigned as Imperial Wizard of the Confederate Knights, Knights of the KKK, and is subsequently disbanding the organization.
“I have decided that after many years of fighting for a cause that will never go anywhere, that it is best not only for myself, but my family that I resign my office as Imperial Wizard effective immediately,” he said, adding his family’s safety and Klan infighting also played a part in his decision.
“If you are thinking of joining a group like the Ku Klux Klan or one like it, please think about it before doing so,” he said. “Don’t make the same mistake that I made and waste half your life on a cause that is going nowhere.”
Bednarsky — noting all events scheduled by the group are now canceled, including ones in Hammonton and Hazelton, Pa. — said Monday he joined the Klan in 1986, when he was 18 years old.
He added the decision to resign and dissolve the group became official March 29.
“I acknowledge that the Ku Klux Klan is a hate group and express deep regret for ever joining,” Bednarsky said, adding his family has been threatened, as well as himself. “I have not only lied to myself, but others as well, in stating that it was not about hate when in fact it was.”
Future actions, he said, will hopefully show how sorry he is for past ones.
“I believe things happen for a reason,” Bednarsky said, adding he hopes to move past this and educate others on hate groups. “I understand that this is not something that will just change overnight and will take time to overcome, but I hope with the help of people like Floyd Cochran from Eye on Hate I will overcome the hate that lives inside me.”
According to the Eye on Hate Web site, in 1992, Cochran renounced his racist beliefs, and in 1993 started speaking out against the hatred he once believed and taught. He now conducts workshops and public forums on the topic.
On April 13, Bednarsky will appear in Deerfield Municipal Court on charges of disorderly conduct stemming from an incident at the Deerfield Township Harvest Festival on Oct. 8, 2006.
Police reports said that Bednarsky and his co-defendant, Robert Barker, were wearing T-shirts bearing the KKK insignia and distributing literature about the group at the festival.
The reports said the men were arrested because several people attending the festival were annoyed and offended by the material being distributed, and a dangerous situation was developing.
Bednarsky said he is preparing a statement that will ask for forgiveness.
“I didn’t go there with the intention to intimidate or cause alarm,” he said, adding he feels their arrests were wrong.
As for future plans, Bednarsky said he will be writing a book called, “Life Behind the Mask,” due out in 2008, and appearing on an Eye on Hate radio show Thursday.