June 7th, 1920

Ku Klux Klan Mounts Publicity Campaign to Attract Members

Confederate veterans founded the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1865. From beneath white hoods, they terrorized freedmen and Republican politicians with threats, beatings, and murder. They strived to undermine Reconstruction and restore racial subordination in the South. Faced with federal opposition, the Klan dissolved by the 1870s, but reemerged early in the next century.

In 1915, William Simmons revived the Klan atop Georgia’s Stone Mountain, organizing men around the lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish man accused of killing a white woman. That same year, the film The Birth of a Nation debuted, presenting Klansmen as saviors of white man’s civilization and white women’s chastity. President Woodrow Wilson screened the film at the White House.

On June 7, 1920, Simmons hired publicists to grow membership for the white supremacist organization. Playing up white anxieties following the first World War, the Klan launched a “100 Percent Americanism” campaign, promoting Klansmen as defending the nation from blacks, Catholics, Jews, foreigners, and “moral offenders.” This “neat package of hatred” caught attention quickly, and within sixteen months, nearly 100,000 new members had joined.

In 1921, public pressure prompted Congress to investigate Klan violence and undue influence in local and state governments, but when Klan officials denied the allegations, Congress ended its inquiry. Immediately thereafter, new Klan membership applications jumped to 5000 per day. By 1924, there were three million active members nationwide, including 35,000 in Detroit, 55,000 in Chicago, 200,000 in Ohio, 240,000 in Indiana, and 260,000 in Pennsylvania.


June 7th, 2016

The Fatal Shooting of Philando Castile

On July 6, 2016, 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony police officer, during a traffic stop for a broken taillight in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mr. Castile was shot multiple times from close range. His fiancee and her four-year-old daughter bore witness to his murder, and his fiancee used her cell phone to broadcast a livestream of the aftermath on social media. The tragic footage of Mr. Castile’s wounded and dying body as the officer shouts orders and the little girl tries to console her mother from the back seat sparked international outrage and protests about police brutality against black communities.

Officer Yanez pulled over Mr. Castile and his fiancee to check their identifications, using a traffic stop as pretext. Police dispatch audio reveals the officer saying, “The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery. The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just because of the wide-set nose. I couldn’t get a good look at the passenger.”

At the start of the stop, Officer Yanes asked Mr. Castile if he had a weapon. Mr. Castile responded that he did have a gun, as well as a valid permit, and explained that his identification and permit were in his wallet. Mr. Castile moved to retrieve the items but Officer Yanez ordered him to keep his hands on the wheel. As Mr. Castile complied, and moved his hands back up to place them on the steering wheel, Officer Yanez fired at least four shots into Mr. Castile’s chest through the open car window, at very close range and close proximity to Mr. Castile’s fiancee and her daughter.

Police who arrived at the scene following the shooting rendered no medical aid to Mr. Castile as he bled out, instead comforting the crying officer who had killed him. Mr. Castile died at the hospital twenty minutes after the shooting and Officer Yanez was placed on medical leave pending investigation. Taking place less than 24 hours after the videotaped fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Mr. Castile’s death led to protest marches and outrage throughout the country. Community members soon came forward to laud him as an inspirational employee at a local elementary school, and publicly mourn his death.

Prior to the fatal shooting, Mr. Castile had been stopped by police for minor traffic violations at least 52 times in recent years, once approximately every four months. These stops resulted in 86 issued violations, most of which were dismissed. The extreme rate of traffic stops cost Mr. Castile over $6,500 in fees and fines.

On August 17, 2016, Officer Yanez was allowed to return to duty in a desk position, though the investigation into the shooting was still ongoing. Within days, community protest led police department officials to return him to administrative leave. On September 6, 2016, local protesters gathered at St. Paul City Hall to mark the shooting’s two-month anniversary and reiterate their calls for a fair investigation and justice.