'I felt sick': Yorkers disgusted by KKK literature in West Manchester

A flyer found on vehicles outside the West Manchester Town Center on Saturday, Aug. 11 targeted viewers of Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman with hateful speech about the Jewish race and other minorities.

When patrons of Regal Cinemas at West Manchester Town Center returned to their cars Saturday night, they found KKK propaganda on their windshields.

A widely circulated Facebook post showed an image of a flyer distributed by Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan on Aug. 11 in response to Spike Lee movie "BlacKkKlansman," which portrays a black detective going undercover to infiltrate the KKK. 

“More Jewish Lies from Hollyweird!” the flyer reads.

In the text, the organization asserted that the plot of the movie was fabricated by the “Jewish-owned and controlled film industry.”

Robert Jones, the knights' grand dragon for North Carolina — where the organization is based — did not know which local chapter placed the flyers in West Manchester, but he said it's part of a monthlong effort from the group nationwide.

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Members recently passed out flyers in Texas and California, he said. 

The West Manchester Township Police Department directed The York Dispatch to an officer said to have responded to the incident, but the officer did not return a call. Management from the shopping center did not return a phone call for this story.

Loyal White Knights has a chapter in Waynesboro, Franklin County, located about an hour west of the township, according to a hate map from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Reactions: "My first response was that I felt sick," said local activist Carla Christopher, who read about the incident on social media. "But I wasn’t surprised."

"This is a big part of what York County is," she said.

Carla Christopher, president of Equality Fest and local activist, poses for a photo at I-ron-ic Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, in York City. Amanda J. Cain photo

Though there are many doing work to fight racists in the county, she said, the incident at the center reflects a history of hate that has existed for decades.

She said Steve Busch, a founder of the state Human Relations Commission, has shared a huge suitcase archiving racial incidents from the 1960s, '70s and '80s, some of which involved KKK flyers being distributed. 

And it continues today with little things, such as Confederate flags in downtown York City and on vehicles, said Red Lion-area poet Kenneth Vincent Walker.

He has lived in York County for 23 years, and hearing about the incident at the mall was his "first real taste of racists coming out of the woodwork," he said.

He said he's noticed a great change this past year alone.

From left, Sandra Thompson, Carolyn Dow and Sandra Harrison listen as Myneca Ojo, right, give testimony during the second Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission hearing at York City Council Chambers Friday, June 22, 2018. The hearing was in response to allegations that the four and another member of the Sisters in the Fairway were racially harassed during an incident at Grandview Golf Club in April. Bill Kalina photo

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"I feel like I have a duty to speak out," he said, reflecting on Nazi Germany and saying the fact that many didn't say anything at the time haunts him.

Christopher said there have been other displays of racism — such as the owner of downtown African-American art gallery Gusa Victoria receiving hateful notes on her store windows and vehicle.

"I do not take my safety for granted walking through a York street," she said.

What happened at the shopping center is a reminder to not get comfortable, she said. "This is not a safe place to live or exist if you are a black person. It’s just not."

Moving forward: Christopher is involved in several organizations, including the York County Coalition Against Racism, and she said she plans to focus her energy there.

Incidents happen every day — even if they are not reported — and she doesn't want them to distract from proactive work to get to the root of racist actions and dismantle them, she said.

Girls on the Run participants compete in the YWCA Race Against Racism Saturday, April 30, 2016. Amanda J. Cain photo

Many of her efforts lately have been on the next generation, as director of children, youth and family ministries and engagement ministries at Union Lutheran Church in York City.

"We can’t make someone, or force someone, not to be racist — but it’s a taught behavior, so it can be untaught," Christopher said.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission released a statement on Sunday saying the organization is aware of KKK activity in York and is working with officials, the community and law enforcement.

The statement mentioned the recent Grandview Golf Course civil rights hearing and also noted the HRC has been communicating with officials regarding the apparently racially charged homicide at the Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge in Hellam Township.

“The shadow of hate that is emerging in aspects of York, PA, will be met with social justice,” stated executive director Chad Dion Lassiter.