Story at a glance
- More than 500,000 people have signed several petitions calling for the KKK to be designated as a terrorist organization.
- The KKK is currently classified as a domestic extremist group rather than a terrorist organization. Groups like ISIS, Boko Haram and al Qaeda are listed as terrorist organizations as they are international groups that threaten the security of the U.S.
- There are currently no grounds to designate domestic groups like the KKK similarly.
Hundreds of thousands of people have signed online petitions demanding the federal government designate the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) as a terrorist organization.
Several Change.org petitions focused on the white supremacist group have gone viral over the past week, after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked protests around the world against police brutality and racial injustice.
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A Virginia prosecutor also said earlier this week a Richmond, Va., man who is accused of driving his truck into a crowd of Floyd protesters Sunday said he was a leader of the KKK. The prosecutor said the office is investigating whether the incident merits hate crime charges.
One petition calling on the Department of Homeland Security to change the KKK’s status to a terrorist organization had gained more than 343,000 signatures in just three days. The petition has set a goal of 500,000 signatures.
“Black Americans have suffered the most under this terror group,” the description of the “Change KKK status into Terrorist Organization” petition says. “Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims. We ask if ISIS or ISIL is labeled a terrorist group for their acts, then surely the KKK fit the clear description of a terrorist.”
A second Change.org petition received more than 100,000 signatures before closing, and a third with a goal of 150,000 signatures has gained more than 122,000 signatures. A separate petition calling on the U.S. Congress to “make the KKK illegal,” has gained more than 265,000 signatures.
The KKK is currently classified as a domestic extremist group rather than a terrorist organization. Groups like ISIS, Boko Haram and al Qaeda are listed as terrorist organizations as they are international groups that threaten the security of the U.S. There are currently no grounds to designate domestic groups like the KKK similarly. Groups expressing far-right and white supremacists ideology like the KKK can also be protected under the First Amendment.
President Trump late last month tweeted that he was preparing to formally label anti-fascist activists, known as antifa, as a terrorist organization, pointing to the far-left group as being responsible for many of the violent protests that took place following the death of Floyd. Trump’s comment raised questions about whether he had the legal authority to do so.
There is currently no domestic terrorism statute, nor does the federal government have the ability to designate a domestic group as a terrorist organization, fueling questions about what the designation would mean in practical terms.
READ MORE ABOUT THE GEORGE FLOYD PROTESTS