Some residents in Bloomington woke up on the morning of Aug. 5 to a disturbing sight. Flyers announcing a “Neighborhood Watch” featuring a hooded person appeared at several locations around the college town. The flyers were meant to be recruitment tools for the Ku Klux Klan.
The Bloomington Police Department opened an investigation into where the flyers came from. Asked for an update on the investigation, Capt. Ryan Pedigo said the department is still trying to figure out who distributed the flyers. Pedigo said the flyers were found in various neighborhoods in Bloomington, and it’s unknown if any locations were chosen for a particular reason.
William Vance, president of the Monroe County branch of the NAACP, noted Bloomington’s population is only about 4% Black, so he isn’t surprised a white supremacist group feels like Bloomington is a place it can take hold.
“We’ve always known that it was possible,” he said. “We know that Salem’s not far away, and we know its reputation. We know the reputation of Martinsville and Greenwood.”
Indiana University junior Isaiah Ware said he was not shocked when he first heard about the flyers through social media. Though he hasn’t experienced much racial tension on campus, he said he knows it exists and believes it’s worse outside of campus.
“It’s not surprising,” he said. “I just wonder why people are taking the time out to hate.”
Justin Freeman, also a junior at Indiana University, found out about the flyers by reading an article in the school newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student. Similar to Ware, Freeman was not surprised by the KKK recruitment flyers.
He believes it is not something unique, but instead the unfortunate reality of America.
“At first I grazed over it,” he said. “It caught my eye, but it didn’t get a reaction out of me. I am not surprised, but it’s a cowardice act.”
Freeman said he thinks there are people who have seen the flyers and will follow up with the KKK.
“People with white supremacy ideology are in Bloomington,” he said. “People are racist, and they are hiding behind the flyer.”
The incident came about a month after a Ph.D student at Indiana University wrote a letter to the Bloomington Farmers’ Market Advisory Board demanding that a vendor be removed because of ties to a white supremacist group. Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton suspended the city-run market, which is scheduled to reopen Aug. 17.
There was also a mass shooting carried out by a white supremacist in El Paso, Texas, which has killed at least 22 people, with more still battling injuries. The shooter wrote in a manifesto about a “Hispanic invasion,” echoing words often used by far-right nationalists, including President Donald Trump.
At a press conference Aug. 13 outside of the Indiana Statehouse, clergy leaders who are part of Faith in Indiana — a religious group that advocates for racial and economic justice — gave a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb, in part urging him to denounce white supremacy.
“Today, white nationalist rhetoric from the nation’s highest office, coupled with easy access to guns, has created a white terrorism crisis,” said Rev. Suzanne Wille, pastor of Episcopal Church of All Saints in Indianapolis. “We have a moral responsibility to condemn the ideology of white supremacy fueling this crisis and pass gun safety laws to protect Indiana families.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.