“When I seen that shotgun, all I could do is yell in the yard, ‘Get the kids! Get the kids!’ Because we had a bouncy house full of kids,” she added. “When I said that, one of the guys yelled, ’We will shoot them kids too.’”
Georgia doesn’t have a state hate crime law. But two members of Respect the Flag received increased sentences when they were convicted of an additional charge of “participation in criminal street gang activity” after two others agreed to testify for the prosecution as part of their plea agreements.
“Their actions were motivated by racial prejudice, which in its view, in the view of the Court, aggravates their punishment,” Judge William McClain said during the pair’s sentencing.
Despite Georgia’s lack of hate crime legislation, McClain said, “It's prudent for the court to consider the motivation of persons when committing a crime when they're convicted and face sentence.”
Historically targeted by hate groups
Racial intolerance against black Americans has persisted for decades. Burning crosses and public lynchings were common practice by the KKK, and the organization has been using these tactics and more to intimidate black Americans for over a century.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group that tracks hate and bigotry toward marginalized communities, has documented 72 known KKK active chapters in major cities across the country. The KKK has seen a decline in overall membership, according to the SPLC. The number of KKK chapters dropped from 130 to 72 last year.
According to an original Klan oath from 1995 obtained by News21, KKK members pledge their allegiance to “the Aryan Race” and sign an oath swearing “to the enemies of my race and my nation no matter how high and powerful.” They “pledge swift and merciless justice when in the fullness of the day of reckoning shall arrive.”
Thomas Pou, the current imperial wizard of the “Original Knights of America, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,” insists the Klan is not rooted in hate. He said the KKK has an unfair negative connotation and many crimes have been attributed to Klansmen that weren’t committed by members of the Klan.
“If you join the Klan because you hate anyone whether it’s blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Orientals, even homosexuals or race mixers, you’re joining for the wrong reasons,” said Pou, who wears his Klan cloak whenever publicly discussing the group to hide his identity. “Hatred does nothing. We’re not in it to hate anybody. We’re in it to look after our own.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism found white supremacists and far-right extremists accounted for 59 percent of all hate and extremist-related fatalities in 2017, an increase of 20 percent from 2016, according to an ADL report released this year.
Pou, 57, has been a member of the Klan nearly all his life; he joined in the late 1970s when he saw a classified advertisement for the group in a magazine. Pou’s account of the KKK is contradicted by reports of racially-motivated crimes, including Byrd’s case, in which the murderers were reported to be Klansmen.