The upheaval in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown has laid bare the racial tension gripping the area. With militarized police shooting tear gas at protesters, incidences of looting, more than 100 arrests, and at least one other death, you'd expect that the situation could get no worse — but it couldn't possibly be helped by the involvement of the Ku Klux Klan.
A Klan group based in South Carolina recently announced that its Missouri chapter would be holding a fundraiser this weekend for Darren Wilson, the police officer accused of shooting and killing Brown. The location is supposed to be somewhere in Sullivan, a town about an hour outside of Ferguson.
"All money will go to the cop who did his job against the negro criminal," the announcement said.
Charles Murray, the Imperial Wizard of the New Empire Knights, told VICE News that he and members of his group are in the Ferguson area in order to help protect white-owned business and white people from looting and violence.
"We are raising money for Officer Wilson," he said. "We are guarding homes and businesses of whites that feel threatened near Ferguson."
'Talk about PR suicide.'
"With blacks out of control, we have our Missouri Realm going to areas near Ferguson," a post that appeared on the group's blog on Monday said. "We can't have blacks robbing and murdering innocent whites. I am on my way down along with members from three different states and members from the Southern Mountain Knights."
In a report from The Wire earlier this week, Murray said his group had already raised over $1,200 for Wilson, who was placed on paid administrative leave directly following the shooting.
But law enforcement officials monitoring the situation told VICE News that they have not encountered any known KKK members in the area, nor have they recorded any official incidents or clashes between the white supremacist group and Ferguson residents. A VICE News crew operating in and around Ferguson has also not seen any indication that the Klan is active in the area.
An officer for the St. Louis Police Department who asked that he not be named acknowledged that they are aware of the advertised rally in Sullivan, but noted that they hadn't yet found concrete proof of the proposed meeting.
It is highly unlikely that Wilson would knowingly accept funds raised by the alleged Klan organization, according to the law enforcement source.
"Talk about PR suicide," the St. Louis officer said.
The Mayor of Sullivan, Thomas Leasor, released a statement on Monday in which he said, "On behalf of the City of Sullivan elected officials and City staff I want to emphasize that we have not, or will not, endorse or condone any activity based on hatred, more specifically any activity based on hatred towards any ethnicity."
'Anybody with a real Klan group has told all of its members to stay away. We don't need to be involved in that at all.'
Frank Ancona, the Imperial Wizard of the Traditionalist American Knights, which he says is the only KKK charter based in Missouri, told VICE News that this type of fundraising violates the Klan's constitution. He also doubted the legitimacy of the New Empire Knights.
"You can't find a single media story about the New Empire Knights holding a rally or doing anything, really," he said. "They haven't conducted so much as a flier drive, where people have received their flier."
Referring to Charles Murray, Ancona said, "This is a guy who isn't using his real name, and who doesn't even have an actual website. He's using a Wordpress blog."
Murray posted a blog entry on Wednesday in which he accused Ancona of setting up a fake email address and using it to slander him.
"While I'm doing activism, Ancona is setting up fake emails and lying," the post said.
But the Imperial Wizard of the Original Knight Riders, a man who identified himself only as "Mr. B," told VICE News that his group has a Missouri branch, and asserted that there is "absolutely zero" concerted Klan presence in or around Ferguson.
"The KKK is not involved at all down there," he said. "The only way the real Invisible Empire would be involved is if a lot of white people got killed or were made to suffer. Anybody with a real Klan group has told all of its members to stay away. We don't need to be involved in that at all."
Ancona confirmed that he is aware of several Klansmen who have traveled to Ferguson and the surrounding areas to help friends and family stay safe, but that they have been instructed not to advertise their membership openly.
"There hasn't been some kind of mandate coming down from the top saying we need to get people out to Ferguson," he said. "I see no purpose to interject the Klan into this whatsoever. We'd create more discord and more animosity against whites and law enforcement up there if we were present."
Murray would not answer how he intended on delivering the raised funds to Wilson, or how long the New Empire Knights would be in the area. A commenter on the New Empire Knights blog wrote that he had been told to send money directly to Darren Wilson. "Mr. Murray told me that he didn't want people to think he was stealing funds," the commenter said.
A grand jury convened for the first time on Wednesday to consider possible charges against Wilson. Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page on his behalf has collected more than $87,000 in the past three days.
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