DOJ: KKK recruitment fliers are legal; no charges to be pursued

DOVER — In the brief aftermath of Ku Klux Klan recruitment fliers being found in at least four Kent and Sussex County towns, law enforcement agencies and schools on Wednesday received official reminders regarding response to threats and intimidation and what may constitute a crime instead of free speech and legal conduct.

Public and charter school administrators and law enforcement leaders got separate letters sent by Attorney General Matthew P. Denn with reissued 2016 guidelines “to ensure that law enforcement and school authorities are taking all legally permissible steps to address hate speech and other forms of threats and intimidation.”

On Saturday through Monday, police in Seaford, Harrington, Dover and Smyrna received reports of KKK fliers in clear plastic bags with pebbles inside to weigh them being found by citizens.

Seaford saw the most fliers and contacted the Delaware Department of Justice for counsel on how to proceed.

The DOJ determined that the distributions were legal, and no charges were pursued.

Seaford Police also learned of similar instances in Maryland towns Easton, Federalsburg, Princess Anne and Pocomoke City. Further research discovered Montgomery and Anne Arundel County police reported related incidents months ago.

In Dover, authorities quickly determined that the KKK’s distribution was legal, noting that police “completely disagree with the group’s message …”

Seaford Police also disavowed any KKK’s values, but also considered constitutional First Amendment rights when contacting the DOJ.

Speaking to law enforcement, the DOJ spelled out “the ways that the state’s terroristic threatening and disorderly conduct laws can be used to address certain incidents of threats and epithets, as well as the way that the state’s hate crime statute provides enhanced penalties for other crimes that are motivated by bias.”

In his letter to law enforcement, Attorney General Denn said he was responding to “recent days of activity by a racist organization …” Terroristic threatening, disorderly conduct and hate crime standards were discussed “in the hope that such conduct can be deterred here in Delaware.”

According to the DOJ “it is permissible for law enforcement agencies to charge a person with disorderly conduct, even in the absence of an explicit threat, if that person specifically directs an abusive epithet, inherently likely to provoke a violent reaction, at an identifiable victim with the intent of annoying or alarming that victim.”

Broad authorities exists for schools to “regulate derogatory speech in their schools – along with speech posted on social media – that is directed at specific students or groups of students if that speech could cause disruption in the educational environment,” according to a news release.

Attorney General Denn offered Delawareans the option of contacting the DOJ Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust at 577-5400 if they hadn’t received a proper respone from school or law enforcement officials and “believed that they were victims of threats or intimidation based on their personal characteristics and were not receiving an appropriate response from law enforcement or school authorities …”

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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