An out-of-state chapter of the Klu Klux Klan that participated in the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally-turned-riot in Charlottesville littered the city’s neighborhoods over the weekend with homophobic and anti-transgender flyers.
The stunt comes in the midst of national Pride Month and after an unauthorized video of students at the city’s Johnson Elementary School reading from the book “ABC Pride” earlier this month was leaked and circulated in local and then national right-wing media last week.
City police are investigating the matter, city officials have denounced the offensive language of the flyers and residents in the targeted neighborhoods say they are disturbed and disgusted.
“It made me really angry to see the flyers,” Lori Pinkey, who found one of the flyers outside her house on Sunday, told the Daily Progress. “These creeps were going around and throwing these flyers in our yards while we were sleeping.”
The flyers appear to have been concentrated in the Fry’s Spring and Johnson Village neighborhoods, where Johnson Elementary is located.
The video of Johnson students went viral in the right-wing media space — where it’s been referred to as “grooming” and “hyper-sexualized” — after first appearing on local radio host Rob Schilling’s blog.
On Thursday, Schilling boasted that the video had been picked up by Fox News Primetime host Jesse Watters.
“Now in Charlottesville, Virginia, grade school kids were forced to go to a Pride Month celebration,” Watters said on a Wednesday broadcast. “O is for coming out of the closet, are you kidding me?”
Neither Schilling nor a representative for Fox News immediately responded to a request for comment from The Daily Progress.
“What is there to be proud of,” a copy of a flyer obtained by The Daily Progress reads before quoting from the Book of Proverbs, “Pride goeth before destruction.”
“A gathering of queers and trans-sexuals thumbing their collective noses at God almighty and his son Jesus Christ! So be it! God will judge!” a copy of another flyer reads.
The origin of the flyers appears to be some 140 miles away and across the state border in North Carolina, according to one of two phone numbers as well as a post office box number printed on the handbills.
The flyers also say they were distributed by the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, headquartered in Pelham, North Carolina.
When dialed, one of the phone numbers on the flyers goes directly to a voicemail message asking “White Christian patriots” to join the racist organization and “do your part to help save America.”
The second phone number on the flyers directs callers to an unmanaged conference call.
The Loyal White Knights white supremacist group is one of the largest and most active Klan chapters in the United States, with about 100 members, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The group follows a version of traditional Klan ideology infused with neo-Nazi beliefs, according to the ADL.
The Carolina Klan chapter, founded in 2011, is led by Christopher Barker and his wife Amanda Barker — though in recent years Amanda Barker has been the primary leader while her husband is behind bars.
Christopher Barker, who participated in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and the torch-bearing march on University of Virginia Grounds the day before, has expressed no remorse for his actions or the lives that were lost on Aug. 12, 2017.
“When a couple of them die, it doesn’t bother us,” Barker said shortly after Unite the Right when asked about Charlottesville native Heather Heyer, who was killed by a white supremacist that day. “They’re always attacking and messing with our rallies.”
Barker has a long criminal record and is currently being held at the Caswell County Detention Center in North Carolina.
In 2016, he was arrested on suspicion of aiding and abetting after another Klan member was stabbed at Barker’s house during a meeting. He also has been arrested for assaulting his wife, possessing a firearm violating his probation and driving while under the influence.
Barker is also facing a civil lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center for his role in organizing the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
It’s not the first time this year Charlottesville has been the target of a coordinated campaign by out-of-town propagandists.
In January, antisemitic flyers were distributed across the city as part of a national public relations stunt by a group that calls itself the Goyim Defense League.
Then, as now, Charlottesville police say that while the flyers themselves are not necessarily a crime, the means of their distribution may be.
“It is probably not legal to go on someone else’s property and distribute stuff like this,” Charlottesville Police Chief Michael Kochis told The Daily Progress. “We are still investigating.”
Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook said Charlottesville has unfortunately become an easy target for these sorts of campaigns.
“Charlottesville has often been sort of a lightning rod for this kind of nonsense, and we got a lot of it in 2017, but that wasn’t the only time, we’ve had these kinds of things left in people’s driveways on and off for many years,” Snook told The Daily Progress.
Snook noted that another set of flyers was found in Charlottesville over the weekend in Locust Grove, some 4 ½ miles away from Fry’s Spring and Johnson Village.
Neither Snook nor Kochis could say whether the flyers were all connected.
“The items that were left on driveways in Locust Grove are specifically talking about Jews and their specifically not KKK,” Snook said. “On the other hand, what was left at Johnson School seems to be much more dealing with LGBTQ Issues and claiming to be the KKK. So I suspect that they’re just two random acts not connected, but I don’t know.”
What Snook could say is that Charlottesville residents should not let the flyers make them feel scared to live in their own community.
“These kinds of things are being done by people who think they are being cute. In fact, they’re just being offensive,” Snook said. “They’re probably not violating a law except perhaps littering, but it’s just one of those things where we have to sit there and ball it up and throw it in the garbage and move on.”
The Charlottesville Pride Network, a local LGBT advocacy group, said that while the Klan and other hate groups are obsessed with what they deem “Pride propaganda” it is clear who is pushing the real propaganda.
“There is a section of the media that wants to make outrage cycles, and their target this time is LGBT people and trying to make parents feel like there is Pride propaganda in schools,” acting Pride President Nick Morrow said. “When this type of story is elevated in right-wing media, it puts a real target on peoples’ backs and escalates dangerously.”
Like Snook, Morrow said Charlottesville’s LGBT community should refuse to live in fear.
“It is important to watch out when people want to harm us and make us less visible,” Morrow said. “But, especially during Pride Month, it is important to be loud and proud and make sure we are seen.”
“I think the message for Charlottesville has to continue to be that hate has no home here,” Snook said.
While some residents who received flyers over the weekend said they were worried something akin to a second Unite the Right might be in the works, Kochis said the police department is fully prepared should the situation escalate any further.
“We are absolutely prepared if anything comes of these flyers,” Kochis said.