In many ways, Ken Parker is everything you’d expect of a Grand Dragon of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan: a white man with a dead-end job in his mid-30s who lives in a mid-to-lower income apartment in a mid-to-lower-income apartment complex in a city in the American South, a rabid anti-Semitic who opposes homosexuality, peppers his speech with racial slurs too abhorrent for print and longs for the good ol’ days when the KKK ruled the South. He’s also a Navy veteran, Hillary Clinton supporter (he says) and rather friendly for someone who wishes that all non-white, non-Christian, non-straight people would leave the country.-
Parker invited Folio Weekly into his home because he took issue with a satirical story about fliers that urged white men to unite because “the n------ are here,” which had been thrown from a moving car in neighborhoods around town in the wee hours of July 15. The fliers also included a phone number and the web address of the Loyal White Knights of the KKK.
In that piece, entitled “Klan Attempts to Prove It Still Exists,” we wrote, “This was the latest local effort to recruit perpetual-adolescent bigots with low IQs and big dreams of reliving the pre-Civil War ‘glory days’ when their ancestors were poor yeoman farmers one drought from starvation,” and referred to his “(probably) dumpy Southside, Jacksonville home.”
Upon reading the foregoing satire about “a couple of ignorant Southside boys” who “were still sleeping off a mighty hangover courtesy of cheap domestic and had not yet mustered the gumption to roll off the bare mattresses on which they rest their greasy mullets night after night,” Parker called, messaged and emailed the FW offices to set the record straight. He wasn’t peeved about the name-calling, the assumption that he has a mullet (he doesn’t) or the insult to his ancestors; no, Parker took issue with the assertion that he lives in a dump.
Days later, FW sat down in a modest two bedroom walkup that, other than the collection of KKK and Nazi memorabilia, could be any apartment in Jacksonville. The sounds of a television drifted through a closed bedroom door as Parker sat at his dining room table with the windows closed and shades mostly drawn to the bright afternoon sun, chain-smoking generic cigarettes and chatting animatedly for over an hour about his worldview, which includes historical inaccuracies, propaganda and opinions most would deem racist.
This is America. Ken Parker is an American man.
As a child, Parker dreamed of becoming an astronaut. But when he learned that astronauts had to spend the better part of a decade training before they got to hear the words “blast off” from inside a shuttle, he abandoned his dream and eventually enlisted in the Navy. After serving his country for 11 years, Parker found himself coming into his 30s, married to a woman he says was heavily into pharmaceuticals and living without the purpose and direction that characterizes military service. One stormy night in St. Marys, Georgia six years ago, as the couple watched an episode of Gangland that featured skinheads and Klansmen, Parker’s wife suggested he join the KKK as it seemed “right up [his] alley.”
“I’d always been interested in the Klan since I was a little kid,” Parker says.
On the White Knights’ website, he learned that the group, which refers to itself as a “brotherhood” and “family,” insists it isn’t a hate group – according to its website, that’s a lie the “liberal media” tells – but does “hate drugs, homosexuality, abortion and race-mixing, because these things go against God’s law and they are destroying all white nations.” The website refers to individuals whose genetic background includes more than one race as “mongrels,” gives white people credit for “all which is great in the world today,” and calls on white Christians to join them in the fight against the “Communist[s] who have stolen our nation.”
The message resonated. Parker dove right in, even though he says his wife ran off when he attended his first rally because she found out the group is opposed to drugs (he says alcohol is also off the menu for members). He shrugs, implying that it was no big thing to sacrifice his marriage to join the KKK.
Parker quickly distinguished himself with the White Knights, telling FW he became a Grand Dragon three years after joining. When he moved to Jacksonville, he says he was named Grand Dragon of the Florida “realm,” as states are known. Being surrounded by so many like-minded individuals gave him a sense of belonging; he refers to the Klan as a family, albeit a family that shares views that many would be appalled by.
Chuckling, Parker says he calls the Holocaust the “Holo-hoax” and adds that “even if it did happen,” he’s not clear on how many Jews were killed because after the war, “the numbers have fluctuated.” And if six million Jews were killed by the Nazis, he considers that a pittance for “what they’ve done to my people.”
“After WWII, all the sanctions that were placed on Germany, then you had communism coming up in Russia. The Bolshevik Jews are the ones that started communism. They killed over 60 million Aryans in the German Empire,” he explains.
(There were a small number of Jews involved with the Russian Bolshevik revolution in 1917, which gave rise to the Soviet Union. But the Library of Congress reports that the Soviet Union was the first ideologically atheist state and, through its attacks on the religion, made the organized practice of Judaism “almost impossible.” Other than blogs and faux news sites, there is no evidence that after WWII the Bolsheviks killed 60 million whites in Germany, which today has a population of over 80 million.)
Between deep drags of 305s, Parker denies that White Knights encourage violence. Parker says that he personally performs background checks on anyone who applies to become a member in his realm. According to him, people who lie about lengthy criminal records, have committed crimes involving children or beaten their wives are ineligible to join the White Knights. “They’re not considered for membership at all; their application goes right in the garbage. We don’t need a bunch of idiots in our organization,” he says.
But Parker just shrugs when confronted with a photo of one of his fliers that says any African-American man who dates a white woman “would be beaten with bats.” Leafleting neighborhoods around the region with such venom is all in a day’s work for Parker; it’s just what they do.
“I don’t even know where they all threw them out at … there was like 1,600 fliers thrown out that night,” he says nonchalantly, adding that after each leafleting, the group fields hundreds of calls from both outraged people and potential recruits.
Contrasting the Nazi and KKK memorabilia, the wall behind him is decorated with professional photographs of space shuttles, images of an unfulfilled dream. But one decoration stands out even more than the shuttles blasting off: a Hillary Clinton flier that hangs next to a Klan flag on one wall.
“Everybody thinks we’re die hard Donald Trump supporters, no, no, we’re all voting for Hillary,” he says, shaking his head. “… He’s a goofball. How the hell is he gonna make Mexico pay for a wall? He can’t do that.”
According to Parker, Trump angered the Klan when he spoke out against David Duke after Duke endorsed him — but Duke, a former Grand Wizard, isn’t in their good graces, either, Parker says, because after he was kicked out of the Klan 30 years ago, Duke “turned his back” on them. It’s a kind of “the enemy of my enemy who thinks my enemy is my friend is my enemy” logic.
Parker claims that he supports Clinton because the government providing social services and funding keeps black people down; he later sneers about people with “Obamaphones” who live in subsidized housing and receive welfare. He then says that, as a national socialist (like the Nazi Party of Germany), he supports putting “programs in place to help [white people] out.”
No matter who he’s voting for, one thing is certain: Parker does not consider himself a liberal.
“I’m going to school full time and it’s amazing how stupid these liberals are. It’s ridiculous,” he says, chuckling. “They don’t even understand the fact that Hillary Clinton has been against gay marriage since day one. I think it was 2012 she finally said she supported same sex marriage.”
Clinton told The New York Times in 1999 that marriage was between a man and a woman but that “same-sex unions should be recognized and that same-sex unions should be entitled to all the rights and privileges that every other American gets.” Since then, she has become an unequivocal supporter of gay marriage.
Mark Potok, senior fellow with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks and reports on the activities of hate groups, doesn’t believe the Klan sincerely endorses Hillary Clinton.
“My opinion is that he is just angling for publicity … the other possibility is that he’s trying to hurt Clinton by linking her to the Klan,” Potok tells FW in a telephone conversation.
The rhetoric spouted by Donald Trump has brought groups like the White Knights out of the woodwork, Potok says, giving them a sense of normalcy and acceptance that they have long been without.
From 2014 to 2015, when Trump began campaigning in earnest, the SPLC tracked a 14 percent increase in hate groups nationwide. According to the center’s Hate Map, as of 2015, there are 892 hate groups in the U.S.
“Florida, by our count last year, had 58 groups, hate groups, that’s the third-highest in the country,” Potok says.
Of the states, Florida consistently ranks in the top three in terms of how many hate groups are active within the state; Potok says that these groups are particularly prevalent in the central and northern parts of the state.
The center reports that Northeast Florida is home to the Southern National Congress, a neo-Confederate group that advocates for the South to secede from the Union (again), and the New Black Panther Party, a black separatist group whose leaders have repeatedly spouted anti-Semitic, anti-white rhetoric. The Nation of Islam, another black separatist group which believes the Earth was once ruled by giant black scientists, one of whom created the white race out of intrinsically evil chemicals, has also been rumored to have a handful of members in the area. According to Parker, the National Socialist Movement, which the center refers to as “the largest neo-Nazi group in the country,” also has a small contingent of members.
Parker claims the White Knights have 12,000 members nationwide, 2,000 in Florida and 1,500 members in Jacksonville alone.
“If you look back to the Civil Rights era, St. Augustine and Jacksonville, they were a stronghold for Klansmen,” Parker says. “Jacksonville’s actually a really easy place to recruit because you have a lot of people that hold them same beliefs and ideals, they just didn’t think there was a group around.”
Potok doesn’t buy it.
“Let me tell you that they are lying through their teeth. This is a group that has claimed to brought in tens of thousands of members … if they have 200 members nationwide, I would be surprised,” Potok says. “They’re trying very hard to give the appearance of being a really big Klan group, but they’re not.”
Parker insists that the SPLC is wrong.
On Oct. 16, the British anti-racism organization Hope Not Hate reported that over the course of 15 months, it had infiltrated the White Knights via web correspondence with its “notorious and violent leader” Chris Barker. The organization wrote that the group is extremely violent and published an email alleged to be from Barker in which he brags about members inciting violence at an anti-immigration demonstration in Anaheim, California last February, writing, “[W]e just had a fight between our members and communist. our members stabbed 3 in California. [sic]” Numerous news reports from the time confirm the stabbings and the White Knights’ involvement with the protest.
In the report, “Lifting the Hood: Inside the Most Extreme Klan in America,” Hope Not Hate also published a batch of names and photos of alleged members of the White Knights and said it planned to out hundreds of members in coming months.
Upon learning about the infiltration, FW reached out to Parker via Facebook messenger correspondence with a profile he maintains under a pseudonym. He confirmed that Hope Not Hate had infiltrated the White Knights and was revealing members’ identities, but said that that since we’d last spoken, he had left the group due to a dispute between Barker and his girlfriend and some of the things that he’d read in the press that made him believe that Barker was an FBI informant with a long criminal record and violent history. Now Parker is in the National Socialist Movement.
He agreed to a follow-up interview following Bill Clinton’s Oct. 21 speech at the Downtown public library, which he attended. Twice Clinton’s speech was interrupted by protestors yelling, “Bill Clinton is a rapist.” Parker was one of those protestors. His companion, A.K., a higher-up in NSM, was the other.
Once they finished protesting on the corner of Main and Duval Streets after Clinton’s speech, we met at the Starbucks in Riverside where A.K., a pseudonym he says stands for “Aryan Knight,” does most of the talking while Parker, clad in a shirt on which he’s written, “Bill Clinton is a rapist,” and carrying a sign that says the same, nods eagerly along. It’s clear that A.K. is the dominant in their relationship; at one he point he chastises Parker for bringing the sign to the coffee shop patio.
Parker had originally asked that his last name be withheld; it is at this meeting that he volunteers to be identified by both his first and last name – perhaps because his identity is likely to be revealed by Hope Not Hate in coming months, anyway. A.K. does not make the same offer.
A.K., who says he’s a disabled 50-year-old Army combat veteran who sold a multi-million dollar bodyguard business and retired 10 years ago, explains that the biggest difference between the White Knights and NSM is that the latter does not have a religious requirement. He also says the group is not a Nazi organization.
A.K. strongly believes that many world affairs are controlled by Jewish people, who, with assistance and acquiescence of those in power, have rewritten history to fit with a narrative that conceals this fact. He knows things that others don’t, he says, because he researches history in the library. “Don’t take what the schools are pushing down your throat,” he says, urging FW to look into some of his claims. As to the Holocaust, he says, “I know for a fact it did not happen.”
But they insist they’re not conspiracy theorists.
“No, I laugh at those guys,” A.K. says.
“We go back to the hotel and drink beer and make fun of them,” Parker adds. A.K. quickly interjects that he doesn’t drink.
A.K. likens NSM to a political party and says their goal is to have representatives from their party in government. He says that there are two Jacksonville City Councilpersons and one Florida representative to Congress who are affiliated with the group – secretly, of course. They present no further evidence to substantiate these claims.
According to A.K. and Parker, there are approximately 15 locals currently involved with NSM but the group has taken a page from Parker’s KKK recruitment playbook to increase membership. They claim they are the ones responsible for throwing out anti-Semitic fliers that said, “Take America back from the Jews!” at the Jewish Community Alliance and two nearby synagogues in Mandarin on Sept. 26. News4Jax obtained another flier from that leafleting that said, “America is being controlled by the Jews. They are plotting the minds of our American government, America sends billions in foreign aid to Israel and we suffer the consequences. This is what your tax dollars pay for!” The fliers included contact information and the web address for NSM.
The tone of the election season has cast a spotlight on discontent and unrest among certain groups like NSM and the White Knights whose members believe that America is headed in a dangerous direction. Many have blamed the recent surge of hate groups on Donald Trump for whipping people into a frothy outrage with statements and Tweets that ring with fascist undertones, issuing what has been referred to as a “dog whistle” to extremists.
Reading these groups’ websites, one gets the sense of a darkened, musty room in which a hunched figure pecks at a keyboard in fervent spurts, wild-eyed, mumbling and rocking back and forth between typing jags. It’s stream-of-consciousness propaganda dressed up with religion, love, peace and brotherhood.
If you are trying to lure an unhappy, lonely, isolated individual who is susceptible to suggestion, there’s a certain genius to the blend of truth and fiction that these groups put forward as fact. There’s just enough real camouflaging the unreal that, if you honestly don’t know better and are inclined to believe farfetched conspiracy theories, you might buy into notions such as Parker’s belief that the Native American peoples “weren’t good stewards of the environment.”
Parker claims that the White Knights have members from all walks of life, from fast-food workers to police and members of the judiciary. But some may find it hard to imagine an educated intellectual believing — as Parker does — that centuries ago Jewish people infiltrated Catholicism and altered the New Testament to put more loving, accepting words in Jesus Christ’s mouth.
More recently, some have wondered whether it is not racism, xenophobia and nationalism that have agitated people like Parker to the point of pining for a revolution; rather, perhaps being involved with a hate group provides an outlet for their anger at missing out on the withering American dream. Last year, Pew Research Center reported that, for the first time in four decades, the majority of Americans are no longer in the middle class. Millennials are the first generation that will worker harder and longer to make less money than their parents and grandparents.
Thinking of the source of his discontent and anger in this light, the way Parker longs for the good ol’ days when people like him were in charge is almost sad; born in 1980 on the cusp between Gen X and Millennials, Parker wants to turn back the clock to make things “right” again. This longing to return to the ways things used to be frequently appears in the propaganda of hate groups.
In furtherance of this goal, SPLC reports that in April, dozens of white supremacist groups, including the White Knights and NSM, formed the Aryan National Alliance. SPLC reports that, “[ANA’s] stated mission was to create an ‘ethnostate’ where ‘each racial group’ could ‘govern themselves according to their culture and ethnic self interest.’”
With their forces converged, it is likely the members of ANA are hoping to accomplish something bigger than getting their names in the press by leafleting, protesting and isolated incidences of violence, which have been the most visible of their activities in recent years. Although the SPLC considers ANA doomed to fail due to infighting and members’ egos and other systemic weaknesses, perhaps even more terrifying than an alliance of dozens of white supremacist organizations is Potok’s assertion that there are actually far more individuals involved with the hate movement than are being tracked.
Potok says people like Dylann Roof, who perpetrated a mass shooting at an African American church in June 2015, days after he spent time on a KKK website, an attack during which he shouted propaganda contained on that website, are a large, untracked part of the hate movement, silent keyboard warriors absorbing vitriol without being actively involved with a hate-based organization.
“The group count actually understates the size of the movement,” Potok says. “… [Roof] didn’t read newspapers, he didn’t read magazines, he didn’t watch news … everything he knew about the world, or that he thought he knew about the world, he learned from websites.”
As monstrous as they may seem, as racist, bigoted and frightening, the Ken Parkers of the world are Americans: much of what they desire is designed – at least in their minds – to make this country a better place to live.
“You can’t watch more than five minutes of TV without seeing a commercial and almost every single commercial you see, they have mixed couples on there. They never have the stereotypical Leave It To Beaver family anymore,” Parker says. “…They’re destroying the fabric of our American society.”