Southern Poverty Law Center Says Klan Chapter Is in Ocean County

Aug 16, 2017


If you think racist and hate groups exist just in the southern and mountain states such as Idaho, you’re wrong.

In the wake of last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Va., The SandPaper checked in with the Southern Poverty Law Center to see how widespread hatred is in America. It turns out there is at least one hate group in every state except Hawaii and Alaska.

In fact, there are some in New Jersey, even one in Ocean County.

According to the SPLC, Ocean County – Toms River to be more exact – hosts a Klan group, a chapter of the Confederate White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The Confederate White Knights of the KKK, headed by Richard Preston, has chapters in Maryland, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. It requires members to be “100 percent heterosexual,” and of European heritage and cannot be Muslim, Jewish, Satanist or Communist. (It adds persons convicted of pedophilia, rape or terrorism need not apply – any group, it seems, has some standards.)

Preston claims his Klan group is much different from the Klan of the 1960s, saying in published reports that “we really want people to understand that the Klan is not an organization that is only bent on violence. We fight very hard to keep our rallies peaceful.” That said, the group once had a website with images of men in white hoods and burning crosses.

Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, said his office knows of the presence of the Klan in Toms River.

“We’re aware of it,” he said. “Our concern is that they don’t do any crime,” adding that law enforcement can’t do anything until they cross that line. “They’re small. They’re pretty disorganized.”

Another nearby group being tracked by the SPLC is the AC Skins, a.k.a. the Atlantic City Skinheads, a racist skinhead group formed in 1986 with ties to a prison gang, the New Jersey State Prison Skins, and outlaw motorcycle clubs.

Just 2½ years ago the SPLC said there were 40 hate groups – which are often short-lived due to law enforcement pressure or atrophy – in New Jersey. That number was inflated by the AC Skins, which the SPLC said at that time had chapters in 14 municipalities across the state, although many were located in towns and cities near Atlantic City. Indeed, at that time one of the named towns was Little Egg Harbor Township.

The SPLC has been accused of inflating its numbers. Some critics (often members of groups that have been mentioned by the SPLC) say it has suffered from mission creep. When it was founded in 1971 it focused on civil rights. Of course, some say, its hate group numbers have grown since then because it now is involved in issues such as LGBT rights and immigration. Plus, some critics have said it will call just a couple of people a “chapter.”

Maybe the latter was the case in LEHT. Della Fave, recalling the situation, believed it was. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Map” is compiled by using hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports. One report from a citizen, one story in a newspaper, one Facebook mention may have led Little Egg Harbor Township to be included on the group’s Hate Map in early 2015.

“It could have just been one website post,” said Della Fave.

Whatever, the good news is that LEHT is no longer on that map.

According to the SPLC, there are currently 917 hate groups of all sorts currently operating in the U.S. If you match SPLC state-by-state counts and population numbers supplied by the U.S. Bureau of the Census you’ll quickly find a seeming, but not perfect, correlation. It isn’t a red state/blue state issue nor is it geographical in nature, although the South is still heavily represented. It is much more simple than that – the larger the state in terms of inhabitants, the more hate groups.

The largest 10 states in the U.S. in terms of population are California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina and Michigan. The top 10 in terms of active hate groups are California, Florida, Texas, New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois and Georgia. Note that eight states make the top 10 of both lists.

New Jersey has the 11th largest population in the country. Fortunately, the Garden State doesn’t follow the size-hate pattern. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have a larger hate group presence. But New Jersey is the home of 15 hate groups, including the aforementioned Ku Klux Klan, AC Skins, another racist skinhead group, the Aryan Strikeforce of Phillipsburg, a hate music company, Micetrap Distribution of Maple Shade Township, and Forza Nuova, an offshoot of a far-right political party in Italy that is anti-immigration. But the SPLC doesn’t limit its monitoring to white hate groups. It also tracks black separatist groups such as the Nation of Islam, which has more chapters than any hate group in New Jersey with five.

— Rick Mellerup


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