Online petition launched to “ban KKK” in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A measure to ban the Ku Klux Klan in Oklahoma has been launched through an online petition.

The petition, powered through the Aavaaz website, was created by a person only identified as "Nikolas T." and posted on Sunday.

On the petition itself, the creator writes "The Ku Klux Klan is a hate group and should be labeled as such. The Black Panther Party actually provided practical and useful help for their community, yet they were labeled a hate group and systematically dismantled by the CIA and FBI. The KKK has and will always be a hate group and still exists to this day. Recent hate‐fueled action in Charlottesville, VA as well as numerous other examples of the use of violence and intimidation by members of the KKK, have helped spark this petition. There is no room for a group like this in our state or our country!"

As of Wednesday, the petition obtained more than 100 signatures; however, the goal is to reach 1,000 with the intent to be delivered to the Oklahoma Legislature and policy makers.

District 82 Representative Kevin Calvey says he supports the spirit of banning the KKK in states and would join individuals who would denounce the group.

"Even my own family has suffered at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan in decades past and obviously I have no use for them and no reasonable person should,"  says Representative Calvey. "The answer though, it seems to me, is to denounce them and let responsible and good speech overcome the bad rather than to ban it which could have actually the opposite effect. It could end up galvanizing mal-contended people inadvertently."

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports as of 2015, there were at least 10 KKK chapters in Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, the KKK had a heavier presence in the state in the 1920's when members were active in recruitment and growing their membership.

Larry O'Dell serves as Director of Special Projects and Development for the Oklahoma Historical Society. He says currently, there is not a huge KKK presence in Oklahoma.

"In Oklahoma, in the 20`s they were responsible for a lot of violence, especially in the Southeastern Oklahoma," says O'Dell. "They had a strong presence in Tulsa. They built one of the biggest KKK headquarters in the south in Tulsa."

The petition will require more than just support. According to Dr. Joseph Thai, a professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, banning groups like the KKK are a violation of the First Amendment and would be struck down quickly in court.

"Whether it is a racist group, a hate group...a group with messages that would be offensive to most of the population, it doesn't matter. The point of the first amendment is to protect speech that we don't like," explains Thai.

However, he adds no constitutional rights are absolute and that includes the freedom of speech.

"If they are inciting violence and it is likely that their speech will actually incite violence, that's the First Amendment line," he says. "That's when they would cross the line from speech that's protected by the first amendment to speech that's protected by the first amendment to speech that can be prohibited by the government."

To view a copy of the petition, click here.