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Racist incidents signal 'potential resurgence' of KKK in York County, state says

Written by Candy Woodall/York Daily Record | Aug 22, 2018 8:54 AM
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FILE - James Lewis, right, of Wrightsville, joins other members of the Ku Klux Klan is saluting during a 2006 rally in Gettysburg. (Jason Plotkin/York Daily Record)

York County is seeing a "potential resurgence" of the Ku Klux Klan, a racist hate group with deep ties in central Pennsylvania, according to Chad Dion Lassiter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. 

He reached that conclusion Tuesday evening after learning a black couple in Dover Township, York County, received a KKK flier in their driveway

The state commission is planning a town hall for late September in York County to address four racially charged incidents in four months. 

First, five black women were asked to leave Grandview Golf Course on April 21 for alleged slow play. Former county commissioner Steve Chronister called 911 twice to have the women removed from the Dover Township course.

Then, on July 21, Chad Merrill was shot and killed outside of the Red Rose Restaurant and Lounge in Hellam Township after he defended a black friend against racial slurs.

Earlier this month, moviegoers left Regal Cinemas in West Manchester Township to find racist propaganda from the KKK on their cars. The KKK fliers were placed in response to "BlacKkKlansman," a Spike Lee movie based on the true story of a black detective infiltrating the KKK.

On Sunday morning, a black couple discovered a KKK flier in their driveway, calling for racial segregation.

"This says there are deeply troubling pockets of hate in York County that have to be addressed," Lassiter said after the incident at the movie theater. Those fliers prompted the town hall. 

The most recent incident reinforces the need for the town hall, for which a date and time haven't been set. 

"The hate that is emerging in York will be met with social justice," Lassiter said.

The commission is reaching out to community stakeholders for help and partnership, including York City Mayor Michael Helfrich, township supervisors and state lawmakers.

"York is a good strong community filled with good people and they will not allow hatred to tear their community apart," Joel Bolstein, commission chair said in a statement last week.

Lassiter said the public meeting will allow him and the board of commissioners to get information about racism, bias and hate incidents in York County.

"Data gathering will inform what kind of action we can take," Lassiter said. "When hate takes up residency somewhere, justice has to meet hate. We cannot allow hate to take up residency."

The town hall is the only action the state commission has slated for York County. 

A second hearing into the Grandview incident was postponed indefinitely last month after Brew Vino LLC and Grandview Golf Club filed a petition for review and emergency stay in Commonwealth Court, ultimately releasing Chronister and others who were subpoenaed and expected to testify during a commission hearing.

"We have no plans for additional hearings at this time," commission spokeswoman Renee Martin said Tuesday. "The commission issued an order on July 23 that 'strongly recommends' the parties participate in confidential mediation to attempt to resolve their differences."

If the mediation isn't completed within 45 days of that July 23 order, the commission will take further action, but did not clarify what action it could or would take.

"The 45 day period concludes September 6, 2018. We will assess the status at that time," Martin said.

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record. 

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