LEESBURG, Va. — The discovery of Ku Klux Klan recruitment flyers through Loudoun County over the weekend has the sheriff and Board of Supervisors chair expressing disgust at the hateful message, looking for clues to who distributed them, and seeking to soothe concerned residents.
“The KKK is, of course, a domestic terrorist organization,” Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall told WTOP. “Whether the threat is perceived or real, this is frightening people.”
On Sunday morning, plastic bags containing KKK propaganda flyers and birdseed were found in driveways in the 39000 block of Catoctin Ridge Street, in Paeonian Springs. The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office also said more bags with flyers were found in the New Town Meadows community in Lovettsville. Two of the bags also contained CDs.
Investigators don’t believe the households that received the flyers were targeted.
Earlier this year, Leesburg police found KKK material a few days before the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
Randall is the first black woman ever elected to the county’s board. She said the effect on residents has been genuine.
Police and prosecutors have acknowledged the difficulty in prosecuting cases similar to this, because of the protection of free speech.
“If people feel at imminent risk, and feel scared in their own homes, I don’t believe anyone has that right,” Randall said. “The Klan is a terrorist organization of murderers, rapists and cowards.”
Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman said his agency has a full-time detective working with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Chapman acknowledges there are few options for a local prosecution if investigators are able to determine who is leaving the propaganda. “Even a prosecution for littering could be tough.”
Yet Chapman said a federal prosecution could result in a severe prison sentence.
“That’d be up to the FBI to see if there’s some sort of hate crime or domestic terrorism,” he said.
Asked whether she favored a new law that might penalize hate speech, Randall said, “I’ll leave that to the legislators in Richmond, and the court system.”
Randall said her main priority is making it clear that the divisive messages are not indicative of life in Loudoun.
“Loudoun County is a very, very diverse county, and we are welcoming of all races, colors, faiths, and people,” she said. “This kind of division is just not acceptable, not tolerated, and is not welcome.”
Randall acknowledged bringing publicity to a small hate group can have the result of bringing more attention to a hateful message.
“You don’t want to give five people more power than they have, but it only takes one person to do real damage,” Randall said. “Even if it’s one person — one person can terrorize.”
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