The head of a Virginia Ku Klux Klan group says the organization has been unfairly depicted as racist, arguing that it is simply a nonviolent, Christian organization.
Frank Ancona, imperial wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, made the comment during an interview Thursday with NBC 12 in response to complaints from residents in communities including Walton Park, Va., about recruitment fliers and information packets left on their lawns.
"We don't hate people because of their race," Ancona told the station. "We are a Christian organization."
But residents such as Walton Park’s Sarah Peachee told NBC that the community has no interest in the KKK or its material. Complaints about the group's publicity material have been on the rise since January in communities including Walton Park, Wrexham Estates and Deerfield Estates.
“We picked ours up out of our driveway and threw it in the trash," Peachee told NBC 12. “We weren't interested in even reading about it."
Ancona, who has served as president of his KKK chapter for the past six years, finds that attitude upsetting. He said the packets are meant to serve as recruitment tools and are aimed at setting “the record straight.” The effort has paid off with a tripling of membership, he said.
The KKK is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that monitors hate groups, as one of the most infamous and the oldest of hate groups in the United States. While the KKK has typically targeted blacks, it has also attacked Jews and immigrants, and gays and lesbians. Since it was founded in December 1865, the Klan has generally portrayed itself as a Christian organization, although in modern times Klan groups are motivated by a variety of theological and political ideologies, according to the SPLC.
Ancona insists his organization is not a hate group.
"Because of the acts of a few rogue Klansmen, all Klansmen are supposed to be murderers and wanting to lynch black people, and we're supposed to be terrorists," Ancona said. "That's a complete falsehood."
He says members are distributing the group's literature in communities where they live and where people have shown an interest in the Klan.
"The funny thing is, the same neighborhoods where you're saying there are people who don't want the flier are neighborhoods where our members live, and neighborhoods where people are sympathetic to our cause and are glad to hear from us," Ancona said. "We get emails from people encouraging us … thanking us for the information."
Read more at NBC 12.