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The Last Word

A relatively new Klan group, named after one of its most violent predecessors, meets with the NAACP and makes nice with the Crips street gang. Seriously.

The Ku Klux Klan is proud of its traditions. White robes. Fiery crosses. Titles like “Grand Cyclops” and “Imperial Wizard.” Klanta Klaus (really) at Christmas. And, more recently, farcical PR stunts aimed at proving that Klan groups are not, in fact, racist.

On Aug. 31, John Abarr, a Montana kleagle (that’s Klanspeak for recruiter) for the Alabama-based United Klans of America, or UKA, met at a Casper, Wyo., hotel with local representatives of the NAACP.

At the meeting, Abarr denounced reported attacks on interacial couples in nearby Gillette, Wyo., as hate crimes. He also reportedly said that “a certain amount of segregation is a good thing” and that he opposes interracial marriage “because we want white babies.” As to the Klan’s appeal, he explained, “I like it because you wear robes, and get out and light crosses, and have secret handshakes. … I sort of like it that people think I’m some sort of outlaw.”

National NAACP officials distanced themselves from the unprecedented event — but Abarr reportedly described it as “awesome.”


The Klan’s Kool: Klan leader John Abarr thinks his organization is appealing because “you wear robes…light crosses, and have secret handshakes.”
ALAN ROGERS/AP WIDEWORLD

This was not Abarr’s first rodeo. In 1989, at age 19, he worked as campaign manager for the white nationalist founder of the American Freedom Party (formerly American Third Position), William Daniel Johnson, who wished to deport any American with an “ascertainable trace of Negro blood.” At the time, Abarr told a reporter that the Klan was “basically a civil rights organization that stands up for the rights of white people.”

The Klan group with which Abarr is currently affiliated is a pathetic millennial reboot of what was once a serious domestic threat. In its prime, the United Klans of America was responsible for, among other things, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., which resulted in the deaths of four little girls in 1963. The original UKA dissolved after it was sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center in the 1980s, but in June 2011, longtime white nationalist Bradley Jenkins of Ashland, Ala., (now the UKA’s self-proclaimed imperial wizard) registered a domain name and attempted a comeback.

Jenkins, like Abarr, dreams of rehabilitating the Klan’s image. To this end, his UKA website — in addition to predictable gripes about immigrants and African Americans — denounces the famously gay-bashing Westboro Baptist Church as a “hate group” against which “patriots” with “true Christian values” must “crusade.” In 2012, Jenkins told Vice magazine that other groups that use the Klan name are just “nigger-hating rednecks,” while the UKA consists of “educated men who are sick and tired of our country getting crapped on.” He said that 2013 would be “the year that people realize the Klan is not a huge hate organization.” (We’ll give him one point for honesty — the Klan today is definitely not huge.)

Jenkins’ efforts to prove his point were nothing if not amusing. In late February, as Klansmen and other white nationalists vowed to rally in Memphis to protest the City Council’s decision to rename three Memphis parks that honored the Confederacy (including one named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first national leader of the KKK), Jenkins took a stand.

“How can that be for others arguing over the name of a park inside a city that made the decision to rename it?” he told a Memphis news station in his stilted way. “We will stand resolute with the citizens of Memphis … and anyone in town, no matter what color they be, because hate and racism has no place.”

Jenkins found an ally in Dajuan Horton, a member of the Grape Street Crips, an African-American street gang in Memphis. In an interview with local reporters, Horton said he would dodge racist protesters’ “blows” and return them with a “hug.” Jenkins vowed to stand with him.

As it happened, it rained. Protesters vastly outnumbered Klansmen and their racist allies, and Horton didn’t show. “It would be nice to take a stand, but … it’s raining,” he told Vice.

UKA efforts to rehabilitate the Klan infuriated commenters on Stormfront, the Internet’s leading white nationalist forum. Referencing Jenkins’ proposed alliance with the Grape Street Crips and Abarr’s meeting with the NAACP, a commenter who identified as a member of the Traditionalist White Knights wrote, “This new ‘uka’ is nothing more than a joke. The leadership of this group is a media junkie that is desperately trying to get attention.” On WhiteReference.com, another disgruntled racist observed — accurately — that the “‘White Power Movement’ is one big FUBAR mess.”