Ku Klux Klan recruiters have reportedly launched a sweet new campaign targeting children in upstate New York, sparking calls to the governor to investigate.
Residents in Oneida and other New York counties became concerned after they say packets containing white supremacist propaganda and a free Snickers chocolate bar began popping up on their doorsteps. What’s worse, residents said the packets have been delivered right around the time children head off to school in the morning.
“They come between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., so the candy bars and packets are at the end of the driveway when kids are getting on the school bus,” Denise Szarek, a member of the Westmoreland Board of Education, told Fox 13 last week. “The community they hit was a mobile home park so there were a lot of kids in the area, and they hit on some of the side roads, too.”
Szarek said the materials not only contained propaganda, but recruitment information as well.
“Our feeling was that the children [were] being targeted — at least the high school and middle school kids in that age group,” she added.
On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state police to investigate the hate group’s campaign and directed the department’s Hate Crimes Task Force to launch a public awareness campaign to combat hate, according to CNN. The task force is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in Oneida County to discuss the issue.
“While President Trump and Republicans in Washington sow divisiveness and hate that’s spreading like a cancer across the country, in New York we say not here, not now, not ever,” Cuomo said in a press release. “New York has zero tolerance for intolerance.”
Rod Klopanstein, president of the local historical society, described the idea of a terrorist organization actively trying to recruit youth with candy and propaganda “terrifying.”
“It requires a response, and the only way to get through that fear is to stand up and come together,” he told CNN. “… I think the worst part is that a lot of kids found it on the way to the bus in the morning.”
“Westmoreland stood up to this, and we stood with Rome [a nearby city] the first time they were faced with this,” Klopanstein added. “We are all in this together and ready to stand together to keep hate groups out of Central New York.”
Szarek noted that anyone could be behind the campaign, adding that Klan materials are easy to download off the internet.
” … I think we’re naïve if we think that KKK members aren’t here, aren’t present in our communities,’ she said. “[But] my theory is that it’s someone local who’s downloading them, printing them out and passing it around.”
The governor’s office is asking anyone who’s experienced discrimination or bias and wants to report it to please call the Division of Human Rights toll-free hotline at (888) 392-3644.