A Montana man who says he no longer holds white supremacist views is starting an organization he's dubbed the Rocky Mountain Knights, which he says won't discriminate based on race, religion, or sexual orientation. The twist: It's a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
The country's most notorious hate group, the Klan is practically synonomous with anti-black racism. The KKK has also directed vitriol toward other minority groups, including LGBT people.
John Abarr told the Great Falls [Mont.] Tribune, "The KKK is for a strong America. ... White supremacy is the old Klan. This is the new Klan." His group does seek "to fight against a 'new world order' or a one-world government, which he is afraid the federal government is trying to achieve," the Tribune reports. (Abarr's vision for the "new Klan" reportedly still includes robes and rituals.)
Abarr's move has raised the ire of progressives and of the KKK's "imperial wizard."
"They know that their beliefs aren't popular, so they try to appear moderate. I think it's just a farce," Rachel Carroll-Rivas, codirector of the Montana Human Rights Network, told the Tribune. "Our mission for the last 24 years has been to shine a light on hatred."
Bradley Jenkins, imperial wizard of the United Klans of America, told the paper Abarr is "going against everything the bylaws of the constitution of the KKK say" and simply trying "to further his political career."
Confusing as it is, Abarr's move isn't the only attempt that's been made to rebrand the KKK.
"While some factions have preserved an openly racist and militant approach, others have tried to enter the mainstream, cloaking their racism as mere 'civil rights for whites,'" notes the Southern Poverty Law Center website. The organization has also characterized itself as "Christian," despite its history of antipathy toward certain Christians, such as Roman Catholics.
Abarr reportedly posted a tweet with no content besides the hashtag "#notallklansmen." Most tweets using the hashtag express ridicule or confusion about Abarr's initiative. For example, black blogger Sahm King used the hashtag in a tweet linking to his YouTube commentary: