HOUMA, La. -- A message some say promotes hate and others claim is simply about pride has filtered into Houma neighborhoods through fliers distributed by a Texas-based white supremacist group.
The Patriotic Brigade Knights of the Ku Klux Klan put out the fliers over the weekend in areas including Summerfield and Mulberry.
James Dawson, the Patriotic Brigade's national director, said in an email that the fliers were part of a recruitment drive involving 17 states. The group puts out fliers several times a year, he added.
Dawson said the most recent distribution was in protest of the Black Lives Matter movement, New Black Panther Party and recent shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
The fliers aren't meant to intimidate anyone, Dawson said, just provide information for people who want "White Christian Revival and to preserve our heritage."
Houma Police Chief Dana Coleman said his department received complaints regarding the fliers and is investigating.
"We take all complaints seriously," he said. "We're looking at all aspects and the manner they were distributed. Our detective bureau is looking into it to see if there are any violations."
'DUKE' IT OUT
Terrebonne NAACP President Jerome Boykin said he believes candidates for the Nov. 8 election may have inspired the flier distribution.
"This is part of what these racist organizations do," he said. "They target areas that they know they're going to do well and people are receptive of it. We have an election that's coming up, and this is an area that they'll do well in. This upcoming election is going to prove just how racist Terrebonne Parish is, with David Duke running for U.S. Senate and Donald Trump running for president."
While the Patriotic Brigade features former Grand Wizard and current U.S. Senate candidate David Duke on its website, Mark Potok, a senior fellow for the Southern Poverty Law Center, thinks Duke's influence is limited. The Montgomery, Ala., center tracks the Klan and similar organizations.
Duke, who served 15 months in federal prison for tax fraud, has a bad reputation among his fellow white supremacists, Potok said. That's the result of years of chasing women, the prison stint and allegations of bilking his followers, Potok added.
"It's not like he's been active in the white supremacist world," Potok said. "I just think his reputation is pretty terrible now."
A man identifying himself as Brother Kevin, a Grand Nighthawk of the KKK who lives in Houma, spoke to a reporter via phone. He refused to give his last name, saying he didn't want to jeopardize his job or personal safety.
Kevin also denied that Duke influences the Patriotic Brigade. However, Boykin said they share the same beliefs.
"David Duke still represents what they believe in," he said. "They think they are superior. It still doesn't change the history of what their organization was based on, and that is hate. ... Anyone who hates based on race is evil."
The Patriotic Brigade is headquartered in Gladewater, Texas, a city of about 6,400 people in the northeast part of the state.
Dawson said the Patriotic Brigade previously went by a different name, but it changed when he took over as national director last year. He said the organization gets lots of positive feedback and new members join daily.
Brother Kevin said the flier distribution spots are selected at random.
"As far as us distributing the fliers, it's just to let them know that we will not let (Black Lives Matter and the New Black Panther Party) come in and take over our towns," he said. "We're trying to keep our city and our streets safe, trying to prevent people from breaking into houses. We're letting our local enforcement know that we're here if they need us because we do support our local police and fire departments. We're nothing like what history has made us out to be."
He said Klansmen will take turns patrolling neighborhoods to look for activity they deem suspicious. If they witness such activity, he said, they will notify the local law enforcement agency and keep an eye on the so-called suspicious person until authorities arrive.
"That way the people would sleep better at night knowing that we're out at night," he said. "Our local law enforcement can't be everywhere all the time."
So far, Kevin said, the Patriotic Brigade has not worked with local law enforcement agencies. But they're keeping the invitation open.
"Every time I see a cop – white, black, they could be green, purple, orange with yellow polka dots – I go and shake their hand and tell them I appreciate what they do because I know they're protecting the safety of myself and my children," he said.
'IT DIVIDES US'
Although Kevin claims the organization isn't racist, the Patriotic Brigade website includes the n-word and encourages white people to separate themselves from other races, such as by not supporting minority owned and operated businesses or sports with black participants. It also includes the phrases "White Lives Matter" and "Black Thugs Don't Matter."
In a message to Black Lives Matter and New Black Panther Party proponents, the website says, "Your best bet is to return to your trash ghettos and continue to live off the welfare that the WHITE Man provides you."
According to Potok, nationally, there are about 190 Klan groups, known as Klaverns, but the membership is between 4,000 and 6,000 people. At its peak, the Klan had 4 million members in the 1920s and 400,000 in the 1960s at the height of the civil rights movement.
Claims of being a neighborhood watch are nothing new to Klan groups, Potok said.
"They were making claims like that in the 1920s," he said.
Boykin said he sees the KKK fliers as another sign that racism is alive across the country, including locally.
"This type of hatred that goes around throughout the community, it's not good for this parish," he said. "It's by no accident that Terrebonne doesn't have a minority judicial district. It's by no accident that Terrebonne doesn't have a black senator or representative. ... No one wins when this type of material goes out into the community. It divides us as human beings."
-- City Editor Brett Barrouquere contributed to this report. Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.