MIAMI, Okla. (AP) _ A former Ku Klux Klan leader who has since renounced the organization says the hate group is “making a comeback in Oklahoma,'' pointing to the recruitment _ and eventual killing _ of a Tulsa woman by a Louisiana segment of the group.
Louisiana authorities have said Cynthia Charlotte Lynch, 43, was recruited to join the group but was killed when she decided to leave an initiation ritual that took place last Sunday.
Johnny Lee Clary, 49, used to be active in the KKK _ rising to the rank of imperial wizard _ but he quit in 1989 and now preaches against such hate groups.
He said he's seen signs of the group's comeback in Oklahoma “for some time now, and my message to my fellow Oklahomans is: Don't buy their messages of hate.
“There are a number of things they will try to use to their advantage to spread their hate propaganda _ the poor economy, illegal immigration, the election of a black president. Just remember, this is the kind of violence they are capable of. I know.''
Other experts said it's easier now for hate groups to recruit such targets as Lynch, a divorced loner who was in and out of legal trouble. Before she was killed, plans were for her to return to Oklahoma to recruit more KKK members.
“In the 1980s, we had the recession and the farm crisis when we saw a spike in KKK membership,'' said Mark Pitcavage, an Anti-Defamation League historian and analyst on extremist groups. “Then in the 1990s, despite relatively prosperous economic times, we saw another spike with the election of Bill Clinton, which didn't sit well with a number of right-wing, militant groups. Now, in a sense, we have both _ an economic crisis and the first black president.
“We're not going to be scared or intimidated. We're going to be vigilant.''
Pitcavage said that while it's difficult to determine exactly how many KKK organizations there are in Oklahoma, he estimated there are at least “four or five contact points'' through which an interested person could become connected with the group.
The Southern Poverty Law Center said there are six KKK-organizations in Oklahoma. Five are connected with the Pennsylvania-based Brotherhood of Klans Knights of the KKK while one is associated with the Louisiana-based Bayou Knights of the KKK. Clary said he believes there are “many, many more splinter groups'' beyond those six.
“The Klan preys on people during hard economic times _ times when they are vulnerable,'' Clary said.
Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com