By Nate Smith
---- — A group claiming to belong to the Ku Klux Klan dropped leaflets in the city Monday and over the weekend. Although the act is protected under the rights of free speech, it nevertheless startled many residents.
Washington police picked up 30 to 40 packets around the city Monday night as they appear to be thrown out of a passing car, according to Chief Mike Healy.
"The guys picked most of them up," Healy said. "They seen some around town themselves and they picked them up."
Healy said there was no person or vehicle seen tossing the literature out the vehicle, but contended there was not much legally police could do.
"Only thing we could have done was arrest him for littering," Healy said. "Chances are, it probably wasn't someone from here."
According to the literature, the group said they were the Ku Klos Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. In the plastic bag was a sign saying "The Klan wants you" and inside was Klan literature including a website and email address.
The email address was for a Church Hill, Tenn., man named Paul LaMonica. The website said LaMonica is the Imperial Wizard for the Ku Klos Knights. An email was sent to LaMonica for comment.
Also mentioned in the site was a subgroup named the Realm of Indiana. A contact name was given for a man said to be living in Monroe City including an email address and P.O. Box number. An attempt to reach the member was unsuccessful.
Healy said if it happened again, residents can throw the leaflets away or contact police and they can do so.
"If they see someone doing it, they can get a vehicle description to us, maybe a plate number if they possibly can," Healy said. "Then we can stop and talk about it, but in itself there is nothing threatening.
"Still, it was offensive to some people. It was to me, and it was something people don't like."
The chief felt, in his opinion, the drive-by method used was not right.
"You hate seeing things like this," Healy said. "Washington is a pretty diverse town and we want it that way. There's good people from other countries and other cultures that live here."
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks groups like the Klan, said they estimate there are between 5,000 and 8,000 Klan members nationwide. The SPLC named the Ku Klos Knights as a group they track and the group is active in Indiana and other states.