PARKERSBURG - A Parkersburg couple is upset after their street, and others nearby, were papered with Ku Klux Klan fliers on Saturday evening.
Paul Miller, 46, and Teresa Miller, 44, of Avery Street, were appalled to discover KKK fliers on their driveway on Sunday morning, the couple said.
An examination of the neighborhood revealed that canvassing had taken place overnight Saturday, with many residences having two or three fliers scattered across the property, said Paul Miller. Fliers were located on Avery, Lynn, Market and Swann streets on Sunday morning, he said.
Teresa and Paul Miller, of Avery Street in Parkersburg, discuss a KKK recruitment flier they discovered in their driveway. The couple voiced their disgust at both the recruitment policy and the community’s lack of outcry over the event. (Photo by Gretchen Richards)
Each half-sheet sized flier had been carefully rolled from bottom to top, with the words "save our land" and "join the Klan" visible on the outside of the rolled paper, Paul Miller said. Each was held shut with a narrow strip of tape around the center.
The Ku Klux Klan historically has advocated extremist reactionary tactics such as white supremacy, white nationalism and anti-immigration, often expressed through terrorism.
Across the neighborhood, Miller said he saw that rain-soaked fliers that had been placed in people's driveways, on sidewalks, and on front porches.
"To say that we are offended is an understatement," Paul Miller, said with his wife, Teresa, in agreement.
This is the second incident of the KKK spreading recruitment propaganda in Parkersburg this year, said Parkersburg Police Chief Joseph Martin. The earlier incident in October used different fliers, but encouraged people to respond to the same group based out of North Carolina, he said.
"Parkersburg isn't the only city this is happening in," said Martin. "All the other large cities in West Virginia-Beckley, Huntington, Charleston and Morgantown-have dealt with the same problem this year."
The Millers found the flier in their driveway after arriving home from grocery shopping on Sunday, said Teresa Miller.
"It was placed just so in the driveway that I wouldn't hit it with the car," she said. "At first, I thought it was some sort of newspaper insert, but then I approached it and the words 'join the Klan' were staring at me, big enough to see while still standing. I was appalled," she said.
But what disturbed the Millers more was learning that, on Monday afternoon, they were the first to report the fliers to The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.
"I figured by now it would be old news to you," said Teresa Miller. "To think that we are the only ones so far who have said anything at all?"
The Millers spoke at length of how disturbed they were at the lack of community outrage over the KKK papering event.
"Maybe people aren't responding because they don't want to raise the fact that this happened to the point of advertising it, but to completely neglect to respond shows that our community isn't interested in equality and doing what is right," said Teresa Miller. "I don't know what we can do about it, but someone should do something, at the very least," she said.
Paul Miller referred to several of Martin Luther King Jr.'s letters and speeches while speaking about the lack of community response, including King saying: "There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right."
"Our speaking out like this may not be what most in the city chose to do," said Paul Miller. "But it is the right thing to do," he said.
When asked about the area targeted by the KKK recruitment fliers, Paul Miller was concerned.
"They seem to be focusing on the distressed neighborhoods of the city," he said. "And even though we are all stressed by the economic downturn, we still need to stand up and let the Klan know that they aren't welcome in our city."
The Parkersburg Police Department assured residents that it is not aware of any local KKK groups, and does not know of any "card-carrying members" present in Parkersburg, said Martin.
"Our research says that these fliers, as well as those in other parts of the state, are all coming from the same source, which is a group based in North Carolina," said Martin. "We believe this is simply their latest recruiting strategy, and does not indicate that such organizations are brewing locally," he said.
The placement of the fliers does not violate any local, state or federal laws, said Martin.
"As much as we may disagree with what the fliers say, they do have the right to speak their mind, so long as they do so in an orderly manner," he said.
Placing fliers on property is legally considered part of orderly speech, but trespassing and littering are not, said Martin.
"Unfortunately, unless we actually catch someone in the act of littering, we can't do anything about it," he said.
Residents are encouraged to call the Parkersburg Police Department at 911 or at 304-424-8444 to report anyone who is trespassing on private property in order to place these or any other fliers, said Martin.
"We may not be able to stop them from putting down pieces of paper, but we most certainly can remove the person doing it from private property if the property owner reports the person's presence to us," Martin said.