CANONSBURG – Keith Skirpan was at work when he heard the news that a Ku Klux Klan member, cloaked in darkness, distributed “crime watch” fliers throughout Canonsburg about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The fliers, placed on vehicles and stapled to utility poles on the east end of town, claimed to provide a solution to drug-filled streets, rampant crime and ineffective police.
And while Skirpan wasn’t one of the residents who woke up to find a flier on his car, he was still outraged by the act.
“I am tired of drugs on our streets, but this is not the answer,” Skirpan commented online. “Hate groups are disgusting. I hope they find who posted these and get them out of our town with the drugs.”
His sentiment was shared by many residents who took to social media to decry the white supremacy group’s call to “take a stand” and “join the Klan.”
Canonsburg Mayor Dave Rhome said he believes this is an isolated incident. He does not know if a local resident distributed the fliers.
“I think it’s someone that’s doing a membership drive,” Rhome said. “Other than that, I don’t think there’s anything to it. We don’t want to give it credibility.”
Rhome added that “it’s not against the law to pass out a brochure,” but fliers are prohibited from being posted on telephone poles. Placing the fliers on vehicles also could be considered tampering with property.
Police Chief R.T. Bell also said he doesn’t know if a borough resident is behind the fliers, but he was surprised that the person would “sneak in at night” instead of seeking full publicity.
Two phone numbers for a 24/7 hotline were listed on the flier, and those numbers have North Carolina and Virginia area codes. An automated message for the Virginia-based hotline described the Loyal White Knights group as “the most active Klan in America” and quoted several Bible verses to explain the group’s ideology.
No one responded to a reporter’s message left on that hotline number Wednesday.
This was not the first time KKK fliers have cropped up in the area. Local media reported that identical fliers were posted on telephone poles last month throughout Emsworth Borough in Allegheny County. And in Fairview Township, York County, one branch of the KKK formed a neighborhood watch group in response to home break-ins, according to PennLive’s website.
Frank Ancona, the organization’s imperial wizard and president, told PennLive, “It’s just like any neighborhood watch program. It’s not targeting any specific ethnicity. We would report anything we see to law enforcement,”
Robert Griffin, president of the Washington branch of NAACP, said it’s “disingenuous” for KKK groups to establish crime watch programs when historically, the group has “a long history of terrorizing and even murdering people of color.”
Griffin said he does not believe the group has a presence in Washington County, but he still thinks the community needs to come together and redouble their efforts to combat racism.
“Unfortunately, it’s just another reminder that racism and bigotry are alive and well in our community and really across the nation,” Griffin said. “I think the current political and social climate of our country has kind of set the stage for this bigotry.”