WINCHESTER — More than two dozen Ku Klux Klan recruitment flyers were delivered to city homes on Halloween night.
At least 30 people on South and North Stewart Street, Amherst Street, West Piccadilly Street, Handley Boulevard and Morgan Street found the folded flyers on their porches or lawns, inside plastic baggies containing birdseed.
Winchester Police Chief John R. Piper said the first flyer was reported shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday night by a Stewart Street resident. Officers went to the home and collected the baggie.
Another call from North Stewart Street came in this morning, so police returned to the neighborhood.
In the daylight, Piper said, police returned to South Stewart Street and found more than two dozen baggies containing Klan flyers on city sidewalks and private walkways and steps.
Neile Martin of the 700 block of South Stewart Street found a baggie at her house when she left for work around 8 this morning.
"I saw 'Join the Ku Klux Klan' in a baggie held down by birdseed," Martin said, noting she didn’t bother to read the flyer.
The flyers promote the North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of KKK and are identical to those found in mid-September in Gore. They criticize the Black Lives Matter movement and insist the Klan is not a hate group, but rather a Christian-based organization standing up for the rights of white people.
The flyers also include addresses to two websites that, as of this afternoon, weren’t working, and a phone number for a 24/7 hotline.
Grissel Anderson of Shepherdstown, W.Va., whose daughter found a flyer in front of her apartment on Amherst Street, said she called the hotline.
"It's disgusting, what they said. I'm beyond mad," Anderson said.
The hotline connects to a recorded messaged filled with ethnic slurs, and states that a KKK cross-burning and rally for whites only will be held Saturday in Virginia. Callers are asked to leave their names and contact information for more details.
George Johnson, who said he was "a little shocked" to find a Klan baggie in front of his Morgan Street house this morning, said he doesn’t agree with the KKK’s philosophy, but he concedes the group has a First Amendment right to publicize its message.
"I guess it's not against the law," Johnson said.
However, Piper said the person or people who distributed the baggies could be cited for littering.
It is not known if the birdseed has any significance beyond weighing down the baggies so they wouldn’t blow away. KKK recruitment flyers that were distributed in Gore, Front Royal and Strasburg in September also included birdseed, as did flyers found last year in Indiana and in February in Ohio.
In other parts of the country, Klan flyers have been distributed in baggies containing peppermints, candy canes, Tootsie Rolls or lollipops.
Piper said it appears the Winchester flyers were thrown from a moving vehicle, but no one has come forward with specific information.
He encourages anyone who saw something or has surveillance video of the suspect or suspects to contact the Winchester Police Department at 540-662-4131 or Crime Solvers at 540-665-TIPS.
Although the flyers state that the Klan is "the invisible empire," the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates total national membership in the KKK between 5,000 and 8,000. That's less than 0.003 percent of the American population.
— Contact Brian Brehm at firstname.lastname@example.org