The police officer responsible for shooting Missouri teenager Michael Brown may receive unsolicited financial support from one of nation’s most notorious hate groups, the Ku Klux Klan.
Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that KKK-affiliated groups planned to launch a fundraiser in support of Darren Wilson, identified on Friday as the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot and killed Brown on Aug 9. The identity of the officer, who the KKK hailed as a “hero,” was not yet known when they originally planned to launch the campaign.
The killing of Brown, an African American, by Wilson, who is white, has sparked more than a week of racially charged protests in Ferguson and elsewhere around the United States. Any involvement by KKK groups could exacerbate conflicts between Ferguson’s predominantly black citizens and the area’s overwhelmingly white police forces.
The KKK’s involvement in Ferguson isn’t purely financial either—at least according to one of the fractured organization’s leaders. Responding to questions by email, Chuck Murray, a leader of the Missouri-based New Empire Knights, told the Daily Dot that members were already in Ferguson and said they were carrying weapons.
“We have several armed Klansmen guarding homes and businesses,” Murray said. “And no, we aren't wearing robes and hoods. You could walk by some of us and never know it.”
While the outpouring of support for Wilson hasn’t been nearly as large as that for the family of the 18-year-old black teenager he repeatedly shot, counter-protests have gained steam in Ferguson. T-shirts supporting Wilson quickly sold out at an event, according to Jon Swaine, a journalist with the Guardian, who has been reporting live from Ferguson.
It’s unclear, however, what role, if any, the alleged plain-clothed members of the KKK have played in drumming up support for Wilson. Asked to elaborate on the extent of his group’s involvement, Murray, who identifies himself as an Imperial Wizard, told the Daily Dot: “I can't say more.”
T-shirts on sale with police-style badge saying "Officer Darren Wilson - I stand by you". $7, just sold out pic.twitter.com/nhXhn4Nvmd— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) August 17, 2014
Illustrating how truly dysfunctional the KKK is in the 21st century, another member of the group, who also identified himself as an Imperial Wizard, told The Wire on Monday that Murray is “not even a Klan member,” noting: “they don’t even have their own legitimate website.”
Frank Ancona, of the Traditionalist American Knights, said Murray’s group appeared within the last year and probably doesn’t have any members. “I think it's just him."
Regardless, some of Murray’s claims were corroborated by the other KKK group. Klansmen have allegedly spoken with white business owners in Ferguson, and say they have plain-clothed members on the ground “patrolling neighborhoods.”
Questioned over how exactly the fundraiser was being conducted — since Officer Wilson would almost certainly not accept a check from a government-certified hate-group— Murray was adamant that his fundraiser, which he says has raised over a $1000, would be successful. “Officer Wilson will receive the money,” he said.
“Fundraising has been better than expected," he said. "The media coverage has helped. Everyday people are asking how they can help.” He added that the KKK was not accepting donations on Wilson’s behalf, but instead encouraging others to send him money directly.
According to a WordPress blog run by Murray’s group, a fundraiser for Officer Wilson is scheduled for this weekend in Sullivan City, Mo., just southwest of St. Louis.
On Monday evening, after the National Guard was deployed onto the streets of Ferguson, police arrested 31 people and confiscated two handguns near the scene of the protests. Several journalists, including Ryan Devereaux of the Intercept, were arrested. According to police captain Ron Johnson, at one point, officers came under heavy gunfire.
The police have deployed a wide range of surplus military equipment on the streets of Ferguson and have been accused by some—including CNN anchors Jake Tapper and Don Lemon—of instigating violence through a disproportionate response to the protests.
Photo via minds-eye/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)