While the Loyal White Knights and other Klan groups have announced renewed efforts towards recruiting members in Ohio and other states, The Southern Poverty Law Center says recent membership gains are greatly exaggerated.
“They have claimed that they’ve brought in thousands of new numbers and that is false,” said Mark Potok, Senior Fellow at the SPLC.
Potok said membership numbers are likely somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 across the country.
Still, he noted that a noted effort towards recruitment is something to be mindful of. Ohio is a larger state with several multiracial, multiethnic urban centers. It’s also a state with an established Klan chapter.
“You have relatively more diverse and liberal cities and a kind of conflict with the rural areas that tend to be more conservative,” he explained.
According to the most recent statistics from the FBI, the Ohio hate crime rate of 4.3 incidents per 100,000 population is more than twice the national average of 2.1 incidents per 100,000 population.
And the number of reported incidents in Ohio are up from 2014.
But Potok explained that while the numbers are helpful for seeing trends, the don’t reveal the whole picture.
“About 53 percent of hate crimes are never reported to law enforcement at all,” he explained.
Some states with higher hate crime rates may also do a better job of reporting it, Potok said.
Michael Nelson, President of the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP, said the numbers are upsetting but not surprising.
“We live in a climate that is ripe for hate groups to develop and be nurtured in,” he said.
News 5 reached out to the Loyal White Knights for comment on their recruitment but did not receive a response.