Ku Klux Klan Recruitment Flyers Appear In Several Rural Oklahoma Towns
They came late, in silence. No one noticed anything unusual that night in Marietta.
"I haven’t heard anybody say, 'Hey, there was a suspicious car, or some people sneakin’ around.' Nothing, nothing like that," said Marietta City Council member KorDale Lornes, talking about the night the Ku Klux Klan swept through Love County.
On the morning of Saturday, January 23, dozens of Marietta’s 2,700 residents made unsettling discoveries.
"We awoke to KKK flyers spread throughout the town. One-half of the town had been hit," said Lornes. "At first, it kind of seemed like it was targeted at minorities. But as the morning went on it was like, 'Well, no, it doesn’t seem to be targeted specifically at minorities, just... half of the town, really.' And there were about 70-ish flyers that were left out in people’s yards."
Those flyers urged recipients to join the Church of the Ku Klux Klan.
Lornes explained that there’s no history of Klan activity in Marietta, which sits just 15 miles north of the Texas border.
"I was born and raised in Marietta. I’ve been in Marietta my entire life. [The] only time I wasn’t in Marietta was when I was at college at Cameron [University], in Lawton," Lornes said. "I’ve never encountered anything like this in Marietta."
Neither have older city residents, like Lawrence L. Anderson.
"Born and raised, right here in Love County. I pastor a church here. I’m on the city council, president of the Chamber of Commerce," Anderson said. "They hit the wrong community. We have never, never had this happen before."
But Marietta was not the only place the Klan targeted recently.
It also dropped flyers in Lebanon and Kingston, east of Marietta on State Highway 32. And a week earlier, the Klan left recruitment leaflets in far north Oklahoma, in Peckham, which is a 25-minute drive northwest from Ponca City.
A KKK Recruitment Drive
Lornes is asking why these places, and why now.
"Initially I thought, 'Well, we just saw the raid of the Capitol Building,'" Lornes said. "I started digging and digging. It’s like the further I dig, the more I’m like, just, blown away by it."
The website printed on the Klan flyers names KKK Church chapters in 24 states, including Oklahoma.
The group promoted its Sooner State recruitment drive on Stormfront, the neo-Nazi Internet forum. A January 26 post explained that the organization wants “new members,” and has “chapters all across the state.”
The post’s author goes by the username Texas KKK and the KKK Church lists a Texas address on its website: P.O. Box 97 in De Kalb. Other hate groups, over the years, have received mail at this same address, like the Aryan Freedom Network and the Texas White Knights of the KKK.
And just several weeks ago, a collective of Israeli antifascist hackers claimed to have revealed the identity of the man paying to use this P.O. Box. His name is George Stout, and he owns the G&R Trading Post in De Kalb.
The Texarkana Gazette ran a story on this guns and ammunition store in 2015. The article describes Stout as “well-versed” in gun laws. Stout’s business license, which the Israeli hackers seem to have obtained, permits him to deal in Title II National Firearms Act weapons, like machine guns and grenades.
But Stout, who describes himself as a firm “anti- Communist,” claims that is outdated information.
“I haven’t been a member of the Klan since the late 1980s. I had an FFL [a Federal Firearms License] ...and let it expire several years ago as health reasons caught up with my age,” Stout said.
It remains unclear what Stout’s role in the KKK Church is, if anything.
'The County of Love'
On Sunday, January 31, Marietta held a peace rally to counteract the group’s brand of bigotry. Under a cloudless sky, some 120 people — most of them wearing masks — gathered in Shellenberger Park to hear local civic and religious leaders speak, pray, and sing against hatred.
"This is not Carter County. This is not Jackson County. This is not Kiowa County. This is not Oklahoma County-- nothing wrong with those counties, but this is the County of Love," said Dr. Wayne Lawson, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Ardmore.
Lawson issued a warning to, and outlined a project for, his community.
"But let me caution us this afternoon, and inform you as to why the hate group selected Marietta: it’s because they saw a small crack in our armor. Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in America: white folks go here; Black folks go across the tracks; Hispanics go there," Lawson said. "We’ve got to do a better job of sharing our pulpits, and getting to know one another. We can’t wait 'til next year. We can’t wait 'til after COVID. We have to start making that change now."
The Klan’s stepped-up recruitment drive makes this an urgent task.