An outraged U.S. House candidate takes the lead to fight hate and racism after recruitment letters were found in a Port Orange neighborhood.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
When Nancy Soderberg, who is running for Congress and her campaign staff discovered that the Ku Klux Klan had distributed recruitment letters in Port Orange, she was upset and took action.
“I was stunned, appalled and shocked. To have fliers dropped in a coordinated effort in the community in 2017 is just wrong. I think that we all need to stand up and condemn it,” Soderberg told the Daytona Times this week.
Residents on Sugar House Drive in the Sugar Forest subdivision reported on Sunday, Oct. 8, that the KKK recruitment fliers had been left in their driveways, according to a Port Orange police report.
The report states that a woman walking her dog noticed bags with candy in them and a letter with the words “The Loyal Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” and “Support the White Revolution.’’
The report further states that the police called the number on the flier but got no response. The police also retrieved video from residents and say the fliers had been tossed from a white four-door vehicle. The vehicle did not clearly show who distributed them.
Call for action
Soderberg, who is running against Ron DeSantis for his U.S. House seat, is calling for local elected officials to publicly condemn hate and racism. Soderberg is a former ambassador to the United Nations and national security adviser under President Bill Clinton.
“I have reached out to DeSantis and others in Congress. I am suggesting that all public officials stand up and condemn hate. We don’t need hate and racism in our society,’’ she said. “It’s not who we are and it is not what we need to be teaching our children.’’
Soderberg has reached out to the Volusia County Democratic Party and the Volusia County Black Democratic Caucus. She also has discussed the issue with State Rep. Patrick Henry.
“This isn’t just an issue for the Black Caucus or the Black community. It’s every resident of the district, state and nation that needs to stand up and call it wrong,’’ she related.
State legislators alerted
“Soderberg is taking the lead, organizing political leaders and clergy. We strongly condemn this. It seems to be a sign of the times but our community does not condone this in any shape or form,” Henry told the Times.
“We will do everything that we can to bring attention to what they are doing. We don’t appreciate them targeting our citizens.’’
Henry said he met with legislators in Tallahassee on Tuesday on the matter.
KKK ‘never left’
The Volusia County Black Democratic Caucus also weighed in this week.
“I have suggested that we have a town hall meeting to discuss the matter and what action we must take forward. Long before the current popularity of the all-right and the rise of the neo-Nazis competing for the top spot in the White supremacist’s world, we seem to have forgotten the old-school racists that have existed since the end of the civil war in the Ku Klux Klan,” said the Rev. L. Ronald Durham, president of the Volusia caucus.
“The KKK passing out fliers in Port Orange, Ormond Beach and Daytona reminds us that this group is not only back, but in reality have never left. They remind everyone in Volusia County that spreading the message of hate and White supremacy continues to permeateand infiltrate communities throughout America.”
KKK recruitment fliers are surfacing nationwide, including in Florida. They also have been seen in New Smyrna Beach, Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach according to reports.
“It’s clearly a coordinated campaign. There were some distributed in Jacksonville and other cities. It’s a clear recruitment effort by the KKK. They have candy in the bags. It’sdisgusting. I condemn it strongly,” Soderberg noted.
Chief denounces it
The Port Orange Police Department is continuing to investigate the distribution of the fliers.
“Many Port Orange residents were shocked to find hate literature in our neighborhoods. The City of Port Orange and the Port Orange Police Department denounce hate groups, hate crimes and any activity that advances their rhetoric,’’ Police Chief Thomas Grimaldi said in a statement.
“We do not believe in their message. We believe in the Constitution and what it stands for. We are committed to protecting our citizens, their property and their rights while providing unparalleled service. We are part of the community and the community is part of us.”
The chief continued, “We urge our citizens to report every incident of hate crimes and hate messaging so that together we can provide a safe place for all families to live and prosper.’’
Church mother: ‘Stop this’
Alberta McCloud lives in Port Orange’s historic Freemanville neighborhood, which was settled by former slaves following the Civil War. She has lived there since 1950.
She is the church mother of Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, an historical site in the neighborhood.
McCloud told the Times, “I’ve never known nothing about the Klan coming here bothering us. We never had any trouble around here, nobody bothers us. Around here, we get along. Back in the day, many of the White kids around here came up along in the church with the Black kids. We need to stop this and love one another.”
The Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP is also keeping an eye out for hate group activity.
“People are concerned, including non-African Americans. The NAACP is concerned about KKK activity in the county. When this hate group and others are comfortable doing something and not fearing for repercussions as a result of it, it’s a problem,’’ said local NAACP president Cynthia Slater.
“It’s up to all people to not accept this type of behavior. If no one speaks out, it’s very concerning.’’
63 hate groups
The NAACP wants to put pressure on law enforcement, government and businesses to root out hate groups and discrimination.
Slater added, “We will continue to work with law enforcement and civil leaders and other organizations to bring awareness. We want law enforcement to ensure the safety of all our citizens.
“There are 63 hate groups active in the state of Florida, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which makes us second in the nation.”