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Klan propaganda thrown in black council members' yards

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Three Bronson Council members got an unwelcome surprise thrown in their yards and driveways some time during the weekend, just a few days after the town elections.
Council Member Beatrice Roberts, at the end of Tuesday Night's town council meeting, held up a Ziplock bag containing a rock and a leaflet bearing the name of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Klu Klux Klan.
She said the bags had been thrown into the yards of herself, Council Member Aaron Edmondson — both of whom won reelection to their seats on the council — and soon-to-be Council Member Bruce Greenlee, all of whom are African American.
"It's a shame that in 2013, this kind of stuff is still happening," Edmondson said.
While the message on the flyers was not an overt threat, advocating for the importance of a neighborhood watch program, the three council members said they were uneasy with the statement.
Roberts, who reported the incident to the Levy County Sheriff's Office, said she was wanting to put the information out in case somebody's house got burned down. She said she felt like particular council members were being targeted.
Greenlee, who also contacted the sheriff's office, said he was concerned but didn't want to give the perpetrators any publicity.
"It ain't nothing new," he said after the meeting.
Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum said Wednesday LCSO is checking into the matter, going as far as processing the bags for fingerprints.
What happened wasn't necessarily a crime, he said, but "We're looking at it, and we're taking it seriously ... because it offends the folks we recovered them from."
McCallum said the bags were thrown into the yards of seven residences, five of which are occupied by African Americans and two being the homes of Native Americans.
He said it's important to know as much as possible, in case later crimes develop that might be connected to this particular Klan organization or individuals, though, prior to this weekend's incident, he hasn't been able to document any recent organized activity by Klan groups in the county.
He said the Klan group does appear to be legitimate, however, having representatives in Mississippi who responded to calls from the sheriff's office.
Angela Freeman, a representative from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors the activities of hate groups, said Wednesday she was unfamiliar with the Traditionalist American Knights of the Klu Klux Klan, but, she added, "It may be a new organization that has sprung up."
In 2012, there were more than 1,000 active hate groups in the U.S., according to SPLC. Fifty-nine of them were in Florida, the closest to Levy County being in Archer and Gainesville.
Freeman said the numbers of hate groups of all types are on the rise, though most are organized in an effort against African Americans.
"They have really been growing since the election of the president," she said. "You've got groups that really want him out of office."
The threat of violence is, according to Freeman, what keeps organizations such as SPLC involved.
"We do it to try to fight hate," she said. "We try to keep track of the bad guys and what they're doing."
It helps keep people safe, she said.
"Somebody's got to do it."