At least 10 households around Dane County have reported racist propaganda being left in their driveways this week, law enforcement sources have confirmed.
Madison Police Department spokesman Joel Despain said the seven flyers found on Madison’s East Side Monday are all the same recruiting flier for the “White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney confirmed three more reports of similar flyers: one found on County Road N between Cottage Grove and Stoughton, another in the Town of Blooming Grove and another in the Town of Albion.
“This doesn’t surprise me,” said Christian Foust, who found one of the fliers in his driveway, in a Facebook message to Madison365. “I’ve been surrounded by white supremacists in Wisconsin my whole life. They can just say it without whispering now.”
The fliers contain a litany of false crime statistics and rail against interracial marriage. They contain a North Carolina-based phone number for a “National Hotline.” A message left at that number was not immediately returned.
Mahoney said distributing flyers is not illegal in itself but this kind of propaganda “causes a disruption in public safety, so we have to look at the circumstances.”
Despain said Madison Police turned the fliers over to the state Department of Justice, who advised that they do not contain a “specific or implied threat,” and therefore are protected speech.
“Disgusting, distasteful, abhorrent speech,” Despain said. “I think we can all agree on that.”
Despain and Mahoney both said people who find racist propaganda fliers should inform authorities, even though the fliers themselves might not be illegal.
Despain said if fliers are left at the homes of African American, Jewish or other minority families, or if other behavior makes a family feel as if they’re being targeted, “That can change the equation.”
Mahoney said his office is keeping the fliers as evidence and will continue to investigate, because he fears fliers like these could be a first step toward something much worse.
“I personally am concerned about it because if somebody goes to the measure of acting out like this, it shows a clear pattern of hatred and prejudice,” Mahoney said. “It’s that kind of behavior that could rise to the level of what occurred in El Paso or Dayton, Ohio, or many other incidents across their country, all dependent upon the level of hatred that this individual possesses.”
Mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio left nearly 30 people dead earlier this month. The El Paso shooting appears to have been racially motivated and targeted Latino immigrants and citizens.
“Everybody (who finds KKK propaganda) should call us,” Mahoney said. “We’re going to collect it and we’re going to treat it as an incident that we’re going to follow up on. It makes our community less safe.”
Anyone else who’s found similar fliers may contact Madison police, Dane County Sheriff or their local police, especially if you feel specifically targeted. Those who find any racist propaganda may also email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.