More than 1 million people have signed an online petition calling for the government to designate the Ku Klux Klan as a terrorist organization.
The "Change KKK status into Terrorist Organization" campaign is one of at least three petitions that have gone viral on the change.org website since George Floyd's death, according to Newsweek.
A history of terror
The white supremacist hate group, whose members burn crosses and dress in white cloaks with pointed hoods, has historically terrorized black Americans.
During the eras of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, the band of white vigilantes carried out lynchings, bombings and assassinations on black people with impunity, and with few — if any — legal consequences.
During the civil rights movement, the Klan joined forces with Southern police departments and governments to oppose desegregation. Several members of the Klan have been convicted of murder in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963 and for the deaths of civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964.
Memories of the atrocities are still an open wound for the black community.
Today, the hate group exists mostly in the shadows, but it has emerged in several national headlines amid the unrest that began more than two weeks ago.
On Sunday, a self-proclaimed leader of the KKK allegedly drove his truck into a peaceful crowd protesting the death of Floyd on a Richmond, Virginia, roadway.
Harry H. Rogers, 36, is being held with no bond and could face hate crime charges. Incredibly, only one person was injured.
Police said Rogers was coordinating the groups efforts to “defend” Confederate monuments, which have been vandalized and toppled in many cities across America in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.
Police later found guns and a "grand dragon robe" at his home, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.
Then on Monday, two men wearing the KKK’s trademark white hoods showed up at a Black Lives Matter protest in Fallon, Nevada, carrying Donald Trump campaign flags.
A video clip of the brief encounter shows city police officers approach the men, who then turn and leave without incident, Newsweek reported.
In some places, the KKK's heritage is still woven into the fabric of American politics. Republican lawmakers in Tennessee resisted a Democratic push just this week to eliminate a holiday for Confederate general and KKK Founder Nathan Bedford Forrest and remove a bust of him from the State Capitol, according to Forbes. Singer Taylor Swift spoke out on the controversy Friday, calling for the bust to be taken down.
Coincidentally, the upcoming Republican National Convention, which was moved this week from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, has been scheduled on the 60th anniversary of the city's KKK race riot — known as "Ax Handle Saturday," which happened on Aug. 27, 1960.
“Ever since the inception of the Ku Klux Klan in December 24, 1865 they have terrorized American citizens for the color of their skin and opposing views,” the petition reads. “This group has a long history of murder & intimidation of people based on color and religion. Black Americans have suffered the most under this terror group.”
Also fueling the Change.org petition is President Donald Trump’s continued blame of the American militant far-left protest movement Antifa, while he has mostly ignoring the mayhem committed by far-right white extremists.
Antifa is very loosely organized and has no real leadership structure, whereas the KKK, is currently classified as a domestic extremist organization.
U.S. law currently provides no clear authority for the government to pin a terrorist designation on domestic groups like it has done for foreign adversaries such as ISIS and al-Qaida.
“The State Department says a group must be a foreign organization who engage in terrorist activity that threatens the security of the U.S. or American citizens to be listed as a terrorist organization,” Newsweek reported.
Also standing in the way of declaring domestic groups such as the KKK and Antifa as terrorist organizations is the First Amendment, which protects ideological movements within the country, according to constitutional law experts.
While domestic terrorism is defined in the 2001 Patriot Act — and law enforcement could use the designation to seek enhanced powers to investigate members of the group — there are no current designated domestic terrorist organizations.
Another petition calling for acts of racism to be treated as terrorism in the wake of Floyd’s death has also gained more than 200,000 signatures, Newsweek reported.