The KKK is in town

Secret society thrives in Fulton County

Four members of the Loyal White Knights of the Klu Klux Klan stand during a recent interview in a secluded part of a woods in Gloversville. The members on the far left and far right declined to identified themselves. Second from left are Gary Munker and KKK Realm of New York President Ben Christian, both Gloversville residents. Those are not their real names. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series of the local presence of the Klu Klux Klan. Part II will run on Monday and Part III on Tuesday.

GLOVERSVILLE — They’re here, and probably to stay.

The Ku Klux Klan — the group infamously known for cross burnings, black lynchings, and as staunch advocates for white power — is alive in Gloversville and Fulton County.

But for the men and women pledged locally as KKK members, they say their work isn’t quite as extreme as historically portrayed.

They do take “night rides” on Glove Cities streets, staking out drug-infested streets as curious neighborhood watchers. Pledging ever loving Christian faith as “soldiers” of their God, they profess to be extremely family-oriented. They are a whites-only brotherhood, they say, proudly donating to other Fulton County organizations like Toys for Tots.

Fulton County’s KKK members feel there is a genuine loss of morals in the country they love.

“It’s not what it seems,” Gloversville KKK member Gary Munker says of the Klan’s dark reputation. “We don’t condone violence.”

Munker is a member of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He, KKK Realm of New York President Ben Christian, and two other members of their group, agreed recently to an interview with The Leader-Herald. Their real names aren’t Munker or Christian, because they fear possibly getting fired from their jobs or other retribution for being Klan members.

“People are afraid to put a good light on us,” Christian states.

The 36-year-old Munker, who moved to Gloversville six months ago from Hampton Bays, Long Island, shakes his head in agreement.

“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,” he relates.

Interview rules were established ahead of time, and the interview took place in a remote, wooded area within the city of Gloversville.

“We really want to educate people,” Munker stressed.

Handed to the reporter was a manilla envelope with what appeared to be various KKK informational materials, some containing cartoon images. Most of it was deemed too racist and distasteful by The Leader-Herald against Jews and blacks to be reproduced for this series. In the documents, Jews were alleged to be behind black slavery, blacks are portrayed with the N-word asking “whitey” to keep the money coming, and Black Lives Matter is denounced as an organization that is “killing white people and police officers …”

The local Klan members claim there are 4,000 KKK members in New York state, about 200 of which are practicing members in Fulton County.

Christian said there exist local “teachers, lawyers and doctors” happily claiming Klan membership.

“It’s never gonna change,” he said. “It isn’t done for no reason.”

They see black-on-white crime as rampant, especially in the Glove Cities, where they see their work is needed more than ever.

The KKK has been in the news this year, both locally and nationally. Locally, a Gloversville man in February was charged with peddling without a permit after he left fliers with Klan imagery around parts of Fort Plain. By August, plenty of fliers featuring imagery of the KKK were found more frequently in the city of Gloversville, some attached to bags of kitty litter thrown on people’s lawns.

On Aug. 12, Heather Heyer died in Charlottesville, Va. when as a counterprotestor, she was mowed down by a car. The protest involved a sanctioned rally of white nationalist and other right-wing groups. Three days later, President Donald Trump defended white nationalists who protested in Charlottesville, saying they included “some very fine people,” while expressing sympathy for their demonstration against the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“I don’t trust him,” Munker says of Trump. “He made good promises, but he’s not fulfilled them.”

But Christian said Lee was one of the strongest and most patriotic generals of the Civil War. Both he and Munker are at a loss why anyone would want to pull down the statutes of people like Lee, who they see as genuine, decent heroes to the South. Munker said it was “brother against brother” in the war between the states.

“Robert E. Lee didn’t even own any slaves,” Christian points out. “He was a veteran.”

It wasn’t much after the end of the Civil War that the first Klan group flourished in the Southern United States in the late 1860s. Although not disputing the history of their society, the local modern-day KKK members seem to crave a certain distance from some of their bloody ancestorial past.

“We’re not white supremacists,” Munker said. “We’re separatists. We don’t want to rule over people.”

Historians believe the KKK has over decades and centuries advocated extremist reactionary positions such as white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-immigration, Nordicism, anti-Catholicism and antisemitism. Historically, the KKK used terrorism — both physical assault and murder — against groups or individuals whom they opposed, They have called for the purification of American society.

“We don’t believe in Nazism,” Munker said.

Nazism is considered the body of political and economic doctrines held by Nazis in Germany from 1933 to 1945, including the totalitarian principle of government, predominance of especially Germanic groups assumed to be racially superior.

But Munker said the way German Chancellor Adolph Hitler held his people together, preserving a certain nationalism, was to be admired.

Munker and Christian both agree the KKK has to remain a “secret society” for many reasons. They didn’t want to divulge membership and initiation procedures, but said the process can usually start by calling the Klan Hotline.

Background checks are conducted of prospective white members. You can’t be a felon or a drug user, they say.

“We are a Christian organization,” Christian said. “We have different events.”

They said they have meetings in different parts of the area, in very secluded places.

The KKK members said that with the advent of groups like Black Lives Matter and a long history of society coddling of black people, white people today are “embarrassed to be white.” Munker also reads several passages from the King James Bible about what the KKK sees as the unholy rise of Jewish power.

“It’s all there in the Bible,” Munker said. “We [whites] were made in God’s image.”

Both Munker, a carpenter, and Christian, an engineer for a local company, said the KKK has instilled a pride in them that no societal norm can take away. Munker said membership in the Klan has made him a “better person” and given him more “confidence.”

“It gives you more of a family,” Christian adds.

Both men went to Charlotteville in July — a month before Heyer’s death — noting the KKK was very peaceful in its protests then. They claim outside groups, the anti-Klan forces, are to blame for much of the violence at these rallies.

“We didn’t stoop to their level,” Munker said.

Asked about the calculated lynchings of blacks by the KKK in decades past, Munker said such activity isn’t condoned by today’s KKK. But he said people have to remember it was a different time in history, when the judge and the executioner were the people themselves and they had no patience for criminals.

“Nobody called the police back then,” he said. “If they had a problem, they handled it in their own backyard.”

And he adds of today’s Klan: “We’re not a bunch of punks.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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