Latino Community on Alert as KKK Increases Presence in Upstate NY

Westchester Executive George Latimer and activist Jirandy Martínez condemned the KKK’s attempts to sow fear in upstate New York. (Photo via El Diario)

Last week, propaganda messages signed by the Ku Klux Klan turned up in homes in Oneida, in central New York State, where members of the United Northern and Southern Knights invited the community to join the racist organization. This is one of a number of similar recent incidents in the area of Syracuse and the municipalities of Fulton and Saratoga. Below are excerpts from a story by El Diario’s Edwin Martínez:

“Neighborhood watch – You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake!” read the KKK’s message. It reached many children and adults in the area, generating great concern, particularly among the Hispanic community living in the state.

“Obviously, we are aware of the existence of hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, but we are alarmed at the speed at which they might be recruiting people upstate,” said Jirandy Martínez, executive director of the Community Resource Center in upstate NY (…)

“Historically, the KKK has attacked people of color and African Americans, and all of us immigrants fall into that category. All this that is happening is a result of what the Trump administration is doing,” said the community leader (…)

“We cannot allow them to expand throughout Westchester County, where people are more inclusive and liberal. That is why we need to respond to members who may be a target of these groups and their agendas by offering more educational workshops for youths on the topics of hatred and communication,” said Martínez (…)

Oneida County Sheriff Rob Maciol (…) said that the incidents that have taken place so far cannot be considered a crime. “I am very sensitive to those in the community that just the mention of the KKK causes anxiety and anger, but the U.S. Constitution protects their right to free speech,” said the sheriff in a statement, but added that the authorities will be vigilant. (…) The office of Westchester Executive George Latimer also rebuked the KKK’s actions and said that there will be no room in his county for spreading hate.

(…) María Villalba, a resident of the municipality of Mamaroneck and the mother of three teenagers, admitted that she is anxious in light of the KKK’s recent actions in upstate New York (…). “These are times in which those groups are feeling emboldened and may attack us. It is not about being scared but about being vigilant and organized, and educating our children, who may be targeted by these groups,” said the Honduras native.

New York’s own governor, Andrew Cuomo, expressed his discontent and concern about the KKK’s latest actions in the state, and has ordered an investigation.

(…)

Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa pointed out that it is urgent for the state’s legislature to promote more laws to stop hate groups by imposing tougher penalties (…).

“We need to investigate exactly where these threats are coming from and whether their objective is to instill fear or actually cause harm. Simultaneously, we must penalize hate crimes more harshly in Albany because, while there is freedom of speech, there are actions that need to be taken seriously when a person or organization makes violent statements against another group,” said the political leader.

De La Rosa added that hate groups and white supremacists are not only acting in the northern part of the state but also in the heart of the Latino community in Manhattan. A number of incidents in the area of Washington Heights have already caused concern.

“Two weeks ago, a white supremacist group started to post racist messages and pictures on social media and put up a banner in Fort Tryon Park that said: ‘End immigration,’ to say that the European white race is superior. We held a vigil to decry hatred and to call for love and decency,” said the assemblywoman.

New York ranks fourth on hate groups list

The latest report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nationwide nonprofit organization that tracks the rise of hate groups across the country, revealed that almost 1,000 such associations have been detected in the United States. Of those, 5 percent (48) are active in the state of New York, half of them in municipalities outside the five boroughs of New York City.

The SPLC expressed concern about the proliferation of hate movements, which have doubled in the last 19 years – from 457 to 954 – and are showing an upward trend. (…)

The organization explained that New York ranks fourth in the country when it comes to the presence of hate groups, following California, where 75 have been detected; Texas and Florida, with 66 identified groups; Georgia with 40, Virginia and Tennessee with 37, and Pennsylvania with 36. The states with the lowest numbers are Wyoming, Hawaii and New Mexico, where only one group has been detected in each state.

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