(UPDATED June 27) CONYERS - In the wake of the Charleston, South Carolina killings that 21-year-old shooter Dylann Roof hoped would cause a "race war," Ku Klux Klan flyers were distributed in residential and commercial areas in Rockdale Sunday night, leaving residents unsettled but determined to unite against efforts to divide the community.
The flyers were listed as being from the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), which has a postal box in Pelham, North Carolina but that the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as being present in Georgia, without a specific city or region. No known chapter is listed for Rockdale or Newton.
Rockdale County Sheriff Eric J. Levett said on Monday, "I find it very disturbing, especially in the wake of the tragedy in Charleston, that someone would distribute Ku Klux Klan propaganda in Rockdale County. The residents that called to report this were understandably upset and I am too. The Ku Klux Klan is a known hate group and the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office is taking this very seriously. We will look into the origins of the fliers and determine if any criminal charges exist, and if so, we will pursue them."
On Friday, the Rockdale County chapter of the NAACP gave a statement at the courthouse steps.
Gary King, president of the Rockdale chapter, thanked the Sheriff, city and state officials, and the citizens of Rockdale "for courageously stepping forward to report this hateful flier event. As I stand before you today, I cannot but help think of the tragedy that has taken place in the city of Charleston, South Carolina... You see, what is intended for evil in the city of Charleston, God has turned into a good. The people of that city have come together in peace, love, harmony in ways that were not even considered by Dylann Roof.
"I want to say to the citizens of Rockdale County, let this incident do the same for the good people of Rockdale County. Let us come together, all races, all creeds, all colors and stand up in united peace, love and harmony. Let the ignorant individuals who distributed those fliers know that racism will not be tolerated here. Racism has no place in America, Charleston South Carolina, and definitely has no place here in Rockdale County."
When asked about the first amendment right of groups such as the KKK to distribute fliers that express such views, King said "It is in fact their first amendment right. But we also have a right to say we don't want it in our community."
He invited the public to discuss the matter at Macedonia Baptist in Conyers on July 6, 7:30 p.m.
On Monday, one Conyers resident, a white male who declined to use his name, says a flyer was left on his car's windshield when he went inside of Wal-Mart, 1436 Dogwood Drive, Conyers, around 11 p.m. Sunday night to purchase supplies for a youth event. He wasn't in the retail store more than 10 minutes before he returned to find the flyer.
The same flyer was also on other vehicles around his, he told The News.
"I wasn't sure what to do," he said. "I thought wow this is weird."
He sat in his car shocked at this discovery.
"I‘ve been kind of naïve," he said. "You think this stuff isn't around anymore."
He says he received a message via social media from another person who also found these recruitment flyers left on their property and other properties in the Magnet community. At least a dozen or so of these flyers were found, each in a clear plastic bag with a piece of candy in the bag.
Many addresses in the Cedar Lake subdivision contacted the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office (RCSO) about flyers in clear plastic bags with a piece of candy left in their driveways Sunday night, according to RCSO Cpl. Michael Camp. One resident found the flyer was left on her driveway after returning from walking her dog around 11:18 p.m. Another person came to the Sheriff's Office Monday reporting she had found a flyer on her windshield at work. The RCSO collected about 100 fliers of six slightly different images and styles.
Conyers Police Department (CPD) spokesperson Kim Lucas says the police contacted representatives at Wal-Mart who said they don't condone people passing out these flyers on their private property. If someone is caught distributing these flyers, and any business doesn't support their action, that person could be arrested for criminal trespassing, she said.
Lucas, who also received a tweet and text about the flyers being around town Monday, says the city will look into changing its current ordinance to be able to charge someone for leaving a flyer, or related material, on a person's vehicle. Under current city ordinance, if someone is caught distributing unwanted paper material, police "maybe" able to charge them with littering.
Other states have also seen a rash of KKK fliers from the Loyal White Knights distributed over this weekend.
In Simpson County and Smith County, Miss., WLBT reported that residents there found fliers from the Loyal White Knights in clear plastic bags with a piece of candy in the bags in their driveways.
In Newton County in January 2013, there were fliers from the Loyal White Knights of the KKK distributed on a late Sunday night at the Chestnut Corners subdivision off County Line Road. These flyers were placed in clear Ziplock bags weighed down by rocks and left in residents' driveways.
In May 2010, there was a post on website of the Association of Georgia Klans, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan that listed a march with a talk at the Rockdale County courthouse followed by a barbecue and meeting at the rally grounds. No identified Klan members or supporters showed up on that day, but about 60 counter-protesters showed up for a "peace rally" outside the courthouse.
In 1992, the last time there was a white supremacist rally held in Conyers, about 20-30 people came out, with a few donning KKK robes, but were largely outnumbered by law enforcement, according to Conyers City Manager Tony Lucas, who was acting Police Chief in 1992.