Columbus police are investigating multiple complaints this week from residents who found fliers promoting the Ku Klux Klan in the streets near their homes.
The Columbus Police Department started receiving complaints Monday about the fliers promoting the notorious white supremacy group, spokesman Lt. Matt Harris said.
Through Wednesday, three complaints had been filed with police after the fliers, which were enclosed in plastic bags, were found in the streets in the areas near Tipton Lakes, 22nd Street near Elm and Maple streets and 27th Street, Harris said.
One flier features a figure cloaked in a white hooded garment, the traditional image associated with the Klan. The figure is pointing a finger and is surrounded by the words, “The KKK wants you.” The flier also provides a phone number to call for more information.
A second flier, which also refers to the group as the Confederate White Knights, details a list of American freedoms that the Klan says are currently in jeopardy, such as Second Amendment gun rights, freedom of speech and freedom of expression as it specifically relates to flying the Confederate Flag.
The advertisement says people of white European heritage were the ones to originally advocate for such freedoms, but the presence of ethnic, religious and other minorities in the United States is resulting in the loss of those freedoms. The flier also says the white population in America is being attacked by minorities.
The final line of the advertisement encourages residents to write to an address in Auburn, a northeastern Indiana city, to receive more information or to send cash donations.
That address traces back to a printing, shipping and copying company in Auburn known as PostNet.
Rick Groves, manager of the PostNet store in Auburn, said he knew of similar fliers being distributed in North Carolina that directed people interested in the Klan to send mail and money to the address of the PostNet store, but he was unaware of the fliers also being distributed in Columbus.
Like in Columbus, Groves said the North Carolina advertisements were enclosed in plastic bags and strewn throughout the street.
As of Wednesday, Groves said he had not received any inquiries or money related to the Klan and also said he had no inclination as to why the fliers would be directing people to his store.
The phone number listed on the fliers does not go to the PostNet store but instead goes to a voicemail for the Confederate White Knights. The phone number has a 260 area code, which serves the northeastern part of Indiana, and can be traced to Auburn, Harris said.
A man’s voice on the phone message encourages people to call or text in their name and contact information to learn more about the Klan. The message ends with the phrase, “God bless, white power.” Harris said the police encountered the same message when they called the number during their investigation.
Harris said he was aware of the fliers being distributed in North Carolina, as well as other reported cases of similar fliers being found in Fishers last month.
Two Johnson County residents also reported finding similar fliers near their homes, according to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department.
Aida Ramirez, director of the Columbus Human Rights Commission, said residents had also contacted her office after finding the KKK fliers in the city.
Ramirez said legally, the fliers do not constitute any sort of wrongdoing that the commission could investigate or act on, so she is encouraging residents to share their concerns about the advertisements with the police.
Harris also said that although messages on the fliers could be disturbing to many residents, the information is considered protected speech under the First Amendment. Other than a littering charge, the person responsible for distributing the advertisements could not be charged with any wrongdoing, he said.
However, both Harris and Ramirez encouraged residents to continue reporting suspicious activity related to the fliers or the Klan, especially if that activity seems to cross the line and become illegal.
The advertisements go directly against the spirit of Columbus and do not serve to further the city’s reputation for being welcoming and inclusive, they said.
Residents who find suspicious fliers or see suspicious activity in Columbus related to the Ku Klux Klan are encouraged to contact the Columbus Police Department by calling 812-376-2600 or by visiting the police department office at 123 Washington St.