The Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacy group notorious for its lynchings of black people and those who favoured desegregation, has scored a spectacular own goal. One of its members has been critically injured after being struck by a bullet fired into the air during a Klan initiation ceremony.
While the organisation is more a subject of ridicule than fear these days, it still has members and still holds initiation ceremonies. The latest took place in Johnson City, Tennessee, the state where the Klan was formed in 1866 by veterans from the Confederate forces.
About 10 people were present at the ceremony, in which a new member was blindfolded, tied to a tree and shot with paint pellets of the kind used by management training groups to build team spirit. In order to give the event a more dramatic feel, one member, Gregory Freeman, 45, fired a real pistol with live ammunition straight up into the air.
It would appear that the Klan, always dismissive of the laws that entitled all citizens to vote and receive an education, also has little respect for the law of gravity. The bullet, having gone straight up in the air came straight down and straight through the head of Jeffrey Murr, 24. It went through his skull, leaving him in critical condition.
Mr Freeman left the scene but was later arrested by police at his home. He has been charged with reckless endangerment and aggravated assault and released on bail.
The Ku Klux Klan held its inaugural meeting at Pulaski, Tennessee. The first gathering of Klan groups was held in Nashville in 1867. The group, infamous for its costume of sheets and pointed headgear and for leaving flaming crosses outside the homes of targets, was a dangerous and powerful force in southern politics for many years and was responsible for countless murders.