By: Brad Crone
In the summer of 1980, Glenn Miller, the Carolina Master Dragon of the Knights of Ku Klux Klan held a rally near Benson. The event started in the afternoon heat and went into the early evening with the culmination of a cross-burning.
Johnston County had long been a hotbed for the Klan. Throughout much of the civil rights fight there had been a billboard at the Neuse River entering Smithfield welcoming visitors to the heart of Klan country…it was not one of the county’s finer moments.
As a reporter for the Clayton radio station, WHPY AM 1590, I remember covering the event and providing news reports for the ABC Radio network and the NC News Network.
What I will never forget about the Klan rally was the fact that the number of federal agents equaled the number of attendees. The FBI, the IRS, Alcohol Tobacco Firearms, the U.S. Marshal’s office, and the Secret Service were spread out throughout the region with local agencies from Sheriff George Johnson and the NC Highway Patrol supporting the police presence.
Throughout the afternoon, federal agents were walking through the parking lot taking down license plate numbers so they could catalog those Klansmen in attendance. The federal law enforcement presence was real – it was sustained. The feds were there to make sure the local KKK members knew they were being watched and their activities being monitored.
One of the leaders of the FBI in North Carolina drove up to Johnston County from the Charlotte field office. In his interview, he made the point that it was the job the FBI to monitor hate groups such as the KKK and that they prevent hate crimes against minority groups whether racial or religious.
What impressed me was the coordinated, centralized effort by federal agencies to monitor and observe fringe organizations such as the KKK.
Fast forward to 2021, where there has been an explosion of extremist groups anchored in social media disseminating conspiracy ideas and theories often rooted in make belief fantasies that even the best copy writers in Hollywood could not conjure up.
Step in the FBI and Homeland Security. There has to be a renewed effort to combat domestic terrorism in our country. What the country witnessed on January 06th when an angry mob stormed the citadel of democracy can not be tolerated in our republic.
The federal law enforcement apparatus through the FBI, Homeland Security, ATF, IRS, US Marshal Service and the Secret Service must garner the resources to monitor, observe and take enforcement actions against any group that poses a threat of insurrection and sedition.
It’s their duty to help protect our citizens and our democracy.
Brad Crone is the former publisher of The Clayton Star and The Thomasville Times. For the past 30 years he has worked as one of the state’s prominent political consultants – operating Campaign Connections in Raleigh. Mr. Crone is a regular panelist on Spectrum News 1. Mr. Crone is registered Unaffiliated.