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Ku Klux Klan recruitment drive raises old fears in South Carolina

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KKK in So. CarolinaSunday afternoon after church, youth pastor Demond Dawson was rounding up a van load of kids dressed in their Sunday best. The group had stopped at the Dollar General in Abbeville for snacks and cold drinks.

As the kids teased each other on the sidewalk outside the store, a weekend rally of the Ku Klux Klan taking place at the very same time in this county was weighing heavily on Dawson’s mind. A recently formed branch of the KKK — the New Empire Knights — held a three-day “KKK Jam” rally over the weekend in an undisclosed location in Abbeville, which it calls its national headquarters.

Klan organizations have made numerous public overtures in South Carolina in recent weeks, including a recruitment campaign of bags of candy tossed into yards with leaflets reading, “Save Our Land, Join the Klan.” According to hate group watchdogs, however, the Klan has dwindling membership and is in a “last gasp” to retain relevancy.

Word of the Klan rally in Abbeville has prompted a lot of questions from the children of the predominantly African-American Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Dawson said. What they want to know most, he said, is why Klan members wear masks. “That scares them.”

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