Following reports that the Klu Klux Klan is expanding a so called “neighborhood watch” in South Central Pennsylvania from Fairview Township to Camp Hill, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) has called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to send its Community Relations Service (CRS) team Camp Hill as was done for Fairview Township. CRS works with communities when tensions arise involving race or national origin.
“It is important that these so-called ‘neighborhood watches’ are not used as a pretext to intimidate residents of a particular community,” said Senator Casey. “I’m pleased that the DOJ sent officials from the Community Relations Service to Fairview Township and I’m hopeful the same will be done for Camp Hill.”
According to DOJ the Community Relations Service is the Department’s “peacemaker” for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, and national origin. Created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, CRS is the only Federal agency dedicated to assist State and local units of government, private and public organizations, and community groups with preventing and resolving racial and ethnic tensions, incidents, and civil disorders, and in restoring racial stability and harmony.
With passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, CRS also works with communities to employ strategies to prevent and respond to alleged violent hate crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability. CRS facilitates the development of viable, mutual understandings and agreements as alternatives to coercion, violence, or litigation. It also assists communities in developing local mechanisms, conducting training, and other proactive measures to prevent racial/ethnic tension and violent hate crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. CRS does not take sides among disputing parties and, in promoting the principles and ideals of non-discrimination, applies skills that allow parties to come to their own agreement. In performing this mission, CRS deploys highly skilled professional conciliators, who are able to assist people of diverse backgrounds.
The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:
Director Grande H. Lum
U.S. Department of Justice
Community Relations Service
600 E Street NW, Suite 6000
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Director Lum,
I write to request that the Community Relations Service provide assistance to the residents of Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, and other affected communities responding to the actions of the Traditional American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Traditional American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan describes itself as a “white patriotic Christian organization that bases its roots back to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) of the early 20th century.” As you know, the KKK has been classified as a hate group by both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Historically, the KKK has engaged in horrific campaigns of racially-motivated harassment and violence. There are currently twelve chapters of the Traditional American Knights of the KKK in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with an estimated 40 to 50 members per chapter.
You may be aware that in April 2014, the Traditional American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan distributed fliers in Fairview Township, Pennsylvania, which included an image of a KKK member in a white hood, with a note announcing a “Neighborhood Watch” by the Traditional American Knights of the KKK. I was pleased that a representative from the Community Relations Service participated in Fairview Township community meeting focused on how to address the presence of the KKK.
Last week, several residents of Camp Hill called on the Traditional American Knights to institute a neighborhood watch in Camp Hill like that in Fairview Township. The leader of the organization confirmed that a neighborhood watch was under consideration for Camp Hill. Given the historical context surrounding the KKK, it is critical that communities faced with a KKK presence receive all available federal assistance in determining how best to respond to these actions.
No American should live in fear of harassment or violence on the basis of race. I request that your office maintain involvement in Fairview Township and offer advice and assistance to the community of Camp Hill in determining how to address the Traditional American Knights of the KKK and ensure that all members of the community feel safe from discrimination. Thank you for your attention to my concerns, and I look forward to your response.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator