In 2016, it was estimated that around 190 Ku Klux Klan chapters with 5,000 to 8,000 members collectively, operated in the U.S. Now, emboldened by the Trump administration, which was endorsed by a former leader of the KKK, the hate group is planning a new recruitment campaign.
"Just because the Klan's numbers are very small, and their activities have primarily been limited to an occasional gathering or leafleting, doesn't mean that individuals who have been in their orbit can't act violently and commit an attack within the United States," Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino, told CNN. "That is the biggest threat now from groups like the Klan."
"We have people all over Ohio already," Amanda Lee, national imperial commander for the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, told The Columbus Dispatch. "There is a large membership of Loyal White Knights there."
Lee noted that the Klan is strategizing a resurgence in 2017, and is looking at several states, including Ohio, in attempt to gain new members.
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"When things start going wrong, it's time for us to start retaliating," she continued. "It's time for us to get active."
"The people who used to be consigned to the gutters of the night to sneak out and put fliers on your car, now they have access to the mainstream online," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the human rights organization, the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "When you go online and see people there who think like you, that's empowerment. You don't have to ask for permission anymore ... You incubate a message that once looked insane -- but now they can class it up and make it look legitimate."
But Lee defended the Klan's message. "We don't hate anybody," she said. "God says you can't get into heaven with hate in your heart."
"It is important for us, in our own communities, to monitor hate," said Michael Waltman, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill. "If you can make the soil of our communities clean and a place where hate cannot grow, we will win."