The sandwich-sized clear Ziploc baggie looked innocuous at first. Ellen Jacobs’ husband went to pick it up off their driveway as they left with their 12-year-old grandson.
“I said, ‘Is that from the gardener?’” Ellen said. “And he said, ‘No, I think it’s worse.’”
Nestled inside was a piece of hard candy and a folded flier — recruiting materials from the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
“I was appalled. I was flabbergasted,” Ellen said.
The Jacobs and other Medford residents discovered the fliers and candy Sunday morning, left in the dark of night on their driveways or the sidewalk nearby. It is unknown how many fliers were distributed, but dozens could be seen scattered throughout northeast neighborhoods. The people responsible hadn’t seemed to discriminate by household, as people of varying races and backgrounds encountered what was left behind.
The flier doesn’t make specific references to the Klan except for in its website URL. Instead, it uses language such as “respected and honored,” “non-violent” and “friendly and loyal” to describe its organization. Most historians estimate the KKK has committed hundreds of murders of mostly black, Catholic and Jewish Americans from its first iteration in the 1860s to as recently as 1981, when Alabama Klansmen lynched 19-year-old Michael Donald, a stranger to them before the murder.
“We do not believe in unprovoked violence, but instead use our minds and hearts to ensure our families and children can live in a peaceful and safe country,” the flier reads.
“We are looking for like-minded men and women from your area.”
Steve and Gloria Cox, also east Medford residents, found the baggie Sunday morning almost immediately after they got out of bed. Gloria said she quickly thought of her multi-ethnic neighbors who may also have received the materials.
“We know the history of Medford,” she said. “Medford has come a long ways from that. We don’t want any group to come into Medford and distribute this kind of trash.”
Although Oregon had already had a history with KKK-esque groups and ideologies, its history with the Klan began with the inception of the first “Klavern” in Medford in 1921. The group enjoyed extensive influence in state and local governance for much of the early 20th century. It helped usher in legislation such as the 1923 Alien Land Bill, which prohibited immigrants from owning land in their name, and the 1922 Oregon Compulsory Education Act, aimed at shutting down Catholic and Jewish-run schools.
Medford police Lt. Justin Ivens said that while Medford police received some calls about the fliers, the language is protected by the First Amendment and the agency is “not even going to get involved in it.”
“We’re going to distance ourselves unless obviously there’s some type of violence or crime involved with it,” Ivens said.
Ivens said he couldn’t recall a time prior to this when Klan fliers were dropped in front of houses, but added, “I can’t speak for everyone in the police department.”
Ellen Jacobs, who is a member of Rogue Community College’s Diversity Programming Board, said she let her fellow board members know about the presence of the fliers and also reached out to the Racial Equity Coalition and Rogue Action Center. Calls to multiple members of the Racial Equity Coalition were not returned Monday.
“I don’t want to be complicit with anything that starts creeping back into our society and having it look warm and fuzzy like this flier does — a nice group of neighbors getting together to promote a peaceful, safe country,” Jacobs said. “My 12-year-old grandson saw right through that immediately.”