A grassroots petition calling on the U.S. government to declare the Ku Klux Klan as a terrorist organization has now surpassed 1.5 million signatures, and it's still climbing. The online petition was created by Jose Cardenas of Washington state, and has spread to all corners of social media. Many signers were shocked that the KKK has not already gotten this designation.
The petition was created on June 7, just days after President Donald Trump tweeted his intention to designate Antifa as a terrorist organization. When he did so, the conversation on social media soon turned to other groups that deserved the title more — including the KKK. In his petition, Cardenas points out that it meets every criteria of a "terrorist organization" by the common definition. The petition is addressed to the Department of Counter-terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
"This group has a long history of murder & intimidation of people based on color and religion," the petition reads. "The KKK has lynched 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites based of the research of The Tuskeegee Institute. The KKK has raped, murdered people for registering to vote, and destroyed towns built by African Americans. Clear documented evidence is available through picture and video of their murderous acts."
"Black Americans have suffered the most under this terror group. Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims," Cardenas continued. "We ask if ISIS or ISIL is labeled a terrorist group for their acts, then surely the KKK fit the clear description of a terrorist."
Today, the KKK is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, with an estimated total member of between 3,000 and 6,000 people nationwide. However, it is believed that these members are not united under one organization, but rather confined to localized groups with only vague connections between them.
They are not, however, forced to operate underground or in secret. Public figures like David Duke remain influential in KKK circles. Duke was the "Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan" in the late 1970s, before the office was abolished a few years later. Not only has Duke been able to publicly state his affiliation with the Klan, he has run for president, and later endorsed Trump for the office.
Were the KKK to be designated a terrorist organization, figures like Duke would not be able to claim affiliation outright. Petitions like Cardenas' and many others are still gaining traction, but whether the U.S. government will take them seriously remains to be seen.