FULTON COUNTY — In the wake of a local newspaper series about alleged Ku Klux Klan activity in Fulton County, two events intended to promote tolerance and peace are planned for Sunday afternoon in Johnstown and Gloversville.
A meeting being called “No Hoods in My Woods” to discuss how to react to offensive Klan activity will take place at 2 p.m. at the Johnstown Public Library, while separately a peace rally called “Imagine” will take place in Castiglione Park on North Main Street in Gloversville.
While the organizers know each other, the two events to express concerns about the presence of any white supremacists in the community are separate, and are not being coordinated.
The “No Hoods” event is being organized through a generally politically progressive group called Glove Cities Huddle, which was formed last spring to discuss national political issues and people’s feelings about them.
“A recent newspaper article has caused a lot of tension in our community. Many people are angry and want to do something,” according to a Facebook post about the event. “We would like to get together and discuss what we can do in our community to combat racism and reinforce the fact that Gloversville (and Johnstown) is a great city to live and do business.”
One of the organizers, Marjorie Kline, said she and her husband have seen people wearing clothing with white supremacist or KKK messages on their clothing in Gloversville, and she believes there is local activity by the group.
Several times this year, mostly recently in late July, fliers purportedly on behalf of the white supremist group were spread around the city. The fliers also contained anti-drug messages.
The KKK was founded in the South during the Reconstruction era immediately after the Civil War, and is historically associated with racism and anti-Semitism. The group fought against the Civil Rights movement, and has re-emerged in many places in the last year, most noteably in a large rally against removal of Confederate military statues in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. An anti-Klan protester was killed.
When the Gloversville newspaper, the Leader Herald, published a three-day series on Fulton County Klan activity this week, in which a member claimed to have 200 adherents in the county, Kline said she and her husband “were kind of shocked, but not surprised.”
That led to calling Sunday’s meeting, which will be more about discussion than action. “We want to get people together to talk about how serious the problem is, and if it is serious what to do about it,” Kline said. “Doing nothing is a disservice to the community. This is an opportunty to come together and show white supremists and racists that they will not be tolerated.”
In response to the newspaper series, local public officials have said they don’t believe there’s a large Klan presence, and that the group is not representative of Fulton County, a county of 54,000 in which two central cities seeking to recover from 20th century industrial declines are surrounded by vast rural stretches, leading into the Adirondack foothills.
Gloversville Mayor Dayton King said he supports the events, and will probably stop by the Gloversville rally. He said he considered scheduling a large tolerance event in the city for later in the month, but was advised by law enforcement officials that it could attract a white supremacist counter-response.
King noted that the alleged Klan members who spoke to the newspaper would not give their real names, and questioned whether they exaggerated the Klan’s presence.
“What is does, it makes people who are minorities who are here nervous,” King said. “According to our police chief and to the sheriff, we don’t have any hate crimes. We have a few people people spreading fliers; it’s a few disturbed people out there.”
Nathan Littauer Hospital President and CEO Lawrence Kelly took a moment from an unrelated press conference on Friday to address the controversy, noting that the Gloversville hospital is very proud of its diversity, with employees born in at least 16 different countries on five continents.
“I do not believe that hate groups have much of a presence here, nor do I believe they have a chance to grow,” Kelly said.
Kline, of Glove Cities Huddle, said it’s hard to know what action the group might take to counter any Klan activity until after Sunday’s meeting has been held.
“It’s to vent frustrations, talk to neighbors and friends, and then talk about what we can do about it,” said Kline, a graphic designer who lives in Johnstown.
The event in Gloversville is scheduled to run from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and is being called “Imagine” after the John Lennon song imagining a world without conflict.
“With the recent news headlines in Fulton County, and the often devastating, heart-wrenching news in the media daily, we need to dedicate some time to revisit what is real and true and necessary in this world — love, acceptance, tolerance, compassion, empathy, and connection,” the organizers wrote on Facebook.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which classifies the KKK as a hate group, tracks racist and intolerance groups across the country, considers a group called Militant Knights of the Ku Klux Klan to be active across New York state. The members quoted by the Leader Herald said the group has 4,000 members statewide, though that cannot be independently verified.