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Riordan: KKK 'message of hate' unwelcome in South Jersey

Police in Cinnaminson, Maple Shade, and Moorestown find hate material, look for the perpetrators.

Crude fliers promoting the "Loyal White Knights KKK" turned up in at least three South Jersey towns over the weekend.

Found on the ground – like litter, appropriately enough – four "Join the Klan Today" fliers were recovered Sunday by Maple Shade police from the area along Boulevard Avenue, where a resident reported finding one late Saturday.

"Someone may have driven by or ridden by and thrown them," Police Chief Gary Gubbei said Monday, adding that an investigation was continuing.

Police say they do not believe any individuals were targets of the apparently random distribution, which  seems to have failed – unless an outpouring of public disdain for the anonymous distributor somehow counts as success.

Several more of the amateurish pieces of paper were found near Fork Landing and Lenola Roads in Cinnaminson on Sunday after a resident walking in the area noticed "what looked to her at first like a Valentine's card lying in the grass,"  Police Lt. Tim Young said. "Then she realized it was hate literature."

Moorestown police also recovered some of the fliers.

"We found two in the Lenola section at about 8 p.m.  Sunday, down the road about a mile from where the flyers were found in Maple Shade," Chief Lee R. Lieber said Monday, adding, "We haven't determined what the premise was for passing these hateful documents around, but we're considering this as a bias incident."

The department is working with Burlington County and state law enforcement and "collaborating with our neighboring departments," Lieber said. "We aren't going to tolerate this type of behavior and we're going to attempt to locate the person or persons responsible."

Cinnaminson officials also condemned the distribution of the material. "There's no place for hate here," Young said. "We embrace diversity."

And in a statement, the Southern Burlington County Chapter of the NAACP declared: "This message of hate – whether it stems from some lone individual with a printer, or some group of anonymous, hateful people – has absolutely no place in our community, or any community."

Reaction on social media was strong as well.

"The pea brains who distribute this crap will never win," a man posted on the Cinnaminson Neighbors and Friends Facebook page, where "Come Together Against Hate" and other multi-cultural and ecumenical messages also were displayed.

Some Facebook comments questioned whether sharing images of the flier would inadvertently help publicize the KKK. "Posting it … only gives encouragement to the ones who distributed it," said one man.

I doubt people will "join the KKK today" after seeing a flier, whether online or on the ground.

I also should point out that this same piece of paper urges people to "stop homosexuality," a suggestion equally unlikely to prove effective.

Nor do I find it useful to draw inferences about any of the towns where police picked up the offensive fliers.

While Maple Shade is identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national anti-hate organization, as the site of a white supremacist music distribution firm, the company – which uses a township post office box address – appears to operate elsewhere and is unknown to most local residents.

"I'd never heard of it," said Mayor Nelson Wiest, 69, a lifelong resident, adding that the township had been contacted for information about the company a couple of weeks ago.

"It's just an awful shame there are sick people out there who do things like this, and spark bad feelings," Wiest said. "If these people get caught, I hope they get prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

The fact that the township is supporting an effort to erect a historical marker at the site of a long-gone café where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was refused service in 1950 is "absolutely" more emblematic of where Maple Shade is today, the mayor added.

Patrick Duff, a civil rights activist and leader of the historical marker project, sees the fliers as "the result of what's been going on politically for the last year. Some people think they have almost a right to be openly and freely racist."

Wandering around in the dark tossing papers on the ground is "really brave," he said.

And those who do so, Duff added, "are cowards."