The underwhelming nature of the Loyal White Knights’ “victory” caravan through Roxboro on Dec. 3 wasn’t caused by any decisive show of force by their anti-fascist opponents. The damage was self-inflicted. After the stabbing of Richard Dillon, “Most of them literally got back in their cars and went home,” said Nate Thayer, who maintains numerous contacts with former Loyal White Knights and other white supremacists. “That’s why the rally was delayed. It had nothing to do with the antifascists.
“They’ve lost every single state leader and every single member of their imperial board, which is like a national board of directors, except for [William] Hagen, who’s now in jail in California,” he added. “They got a spike of new members after the stabbing because of the publicity.”
An outgoing message recorded by Amanda Barker on the Loyal White Knights’ hotline promotes a “private rally for members and people who want to join” and cross lighting on the outskirts of Asheboro on Saturday. A post on the Loyal White Knights’ website announces: “Rally starts at 1 p.m. EST. No drinking. No drugs. No weapons. We are having klavern meeting, speeches, dinner, Klan items and the most important: the cross lighting at dark!”
The purpose of publicizing the event on the group’s website, Thayer said, is to generate media coverage, which in turn drives inquiries from prospective members to the hotline. Far from being a liability, Thayer said denunciations from Asheboro Mayor David Smith and US Rep. Mark Walker only serve to drive more media coverage and interest in the group.
The knowledge that the Ku Klux Klan is holding a rally and cross lighting near Asheboro triggers a tangible fear among local residents, said Aimee Pippin, who is organizing a “Unity Walk” at Memorial Park from 10 a.m. to noon in downtown Asheboro. She said her daughter, Mia, a criminal justice major at UNC Charlotte who was galvanized by the protests against the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott last year, urged her to organize the counter-event.
A native of southern California with Spanish, Italian and Native American heritage, Aimee Pippin experienced racism in a direct manner when she moved with her family to Randolph County as a high school student. She said she recently spoke with a neighbor, who showed her a family history book with photos of family members who were Klan members.
“I had a friend whose grandparents had land out in the country,” Pippin recalled of her high school years. “I was not allowed to go there because I was ‘too tan.’”
The Klan’s presence in Randolph County is a barely concealed secret today, Pippin said.
“If you ask about the Klan, people will say, ‘They’re here and there and everywhere,’” she said. “They’re very vocal about it.”
Pippin worked with a group of churches in Asheboro to organize a response to the Klan rally. Then, in early April she discovered that the churches had pulled out of the event without informing her.
“They had come to the conclusion, along with the mayor and other religious leaders, that they felt that by having an event they were going to be giving more publicity to the Klan,” Pippin said. “The words given to me by a contact were, ‘Ignore it, and they’ll disappear.’ Of course, I believe that logic is flawed.”
Separately, a group based in neighboring Davidson County called Silver Valley Redneck Revolt began organizing a response to the Klan around the same time.
Anarchist in political orientation, Redneck Revolt is a national network of gun clubs that organizes in white cultural spaces while extending support to immigrants, Muslims, people of color and LGBTQ people.
“The Klan is a material threat to the community,” said Mitch Maden (not their real last name), an organizer with Silver Valley Redneck Revolt who aspires to be a sustainable farmer. “The goal of Redneck Revolt is to say, ‘We’re here, and if you come out of your enclaves we’ll respond.’
“To the community, we’re saying that we have the willingness to train people in self-defense, de-escalation and solutions to racist violence that don’t rely on approval from the government,” Maden added. “We’re not getting a permit. We don’t have to ask permission to defend ourselves and to come out against this racist drivel. We’re ready to work with people and train with people and to have solidarity with people that are targeted by the Klan.”
Aimee Pippin said her resolve to take a stand against the racism that is exemplified by the Klan was steeled by a recent experience in which her two biracial children were not greeted at a local diner and observed staff seating a white party who came in after them as they waited.
“My daughter said, ‘Mom, it’s okay, I’m used to it,’” Pippin said. “The fact that my children are used to people treating them differently, that they’re used to other children making racial comments or saying derogatory comments at school — that’s a problem.
“I think it’s just been a long time coming,” she added. “I felt I needed to do something, say something. I needed to show my children that you need to stand up. I can’t tell them and raise them to stand up for what they believe in and to find joy in diversity, and then not do anything.”
The Klan today and in history
Splintered into an ever-metastasizing kaleidoscope of rival groups, the Klan is a shadow of its former self, with a total membership estimated by the Southern Poverty Law Center to be between 5,000 and 8,000. In comparison, the original Klan operated as a paramilitary arm of the white supremacist Democratic Party in the South until around 1898, when the institution of Jim Crow segregation made it largely redundant. The second Klan reemerged in the 1920s with as many as 4 million members.
During a third resurgence in the 1960s, the Klan was energized by resistance in the South to desegregation, with as many as 3,000 people attending rallies in North Carolina, according to the Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Beginning in the 1980s, neo-Nazi groups began to vie for position in the white supremacist movement, and starting in the 1990s, libertarian-oriented patriot militias began to occupy an increasingly prominent position on the hard right. And with the election of Donald Trump, a new generation of upscale “alt-right” groups like Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute and the Proud Boys have inaugurated yet another iteration of right-wing extremism.