MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- In the midst of nationwide protests following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, petitions have cropped up calling for the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan (KKK) group to be labeled as a terrorist organization.
“The Ku Klux Klan, with its long history of violence, is the oldest and most infamous of American hate groups,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website. “Although Black Americans have typically been the Klan’s primary target, it also has attacked Jews, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community and, until recently, Catholics.”
One petition has more than 160,000 signatures. It’s ultimate goal is to reach 200,000.
“The Ku Klux Klan is a white supremacist hate group with historic background of terrorism, including countless physical assaults and murders,” the Change.org petition reads. “The KKK is still active in certain parts of the country and has public rallies. Hate should not be a way to bring the communities together, nor should it be allowed or tolerated.”
As of June 9, two additional petitions that were started to declare the KKK a terrorist organization garnered a large amount of signatures, one with 150,000 and the other with more than 99,000 signatures.
“This group has a long history of murder & intimidation of people based on color and religion,” one petition reads.
The petitions come after President Donald Trump and members of his administration singled out antifa as being responsible for the violence at protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes.
Attorney General William Barr described “antifa-like tactics” by out-of-state agitators and said antifa was instigating violence and engaging in “domestic terrorism” and would be dealt with accordingly.
During a White House appearance, President Trump blamed antifa by name for the violence, along with violent mobs, arsonists and looters.
“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” the president tweeted.
Floyd’s death drew new attention to the treatment of African Americans in the U.S. by police and the criminal justice system.
In the past two weeks, sweeping and previously unthinkable things have taken place: Confederate statues have been toppled, and many cities are debating overhauling, dismantling or cutting funding for police departments. Authorities in some places have barred police from using chokeholds or are otherwise rethinking policies on the use of force.
Floyd, a bouncer who had lost his job because of the coronavirus outbreak, was seized by police after being accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. He was pinned to the pavement for what prosecutors say was 8 minutes, 46 seconds — a number that has since become a rallying cry among protesters.
Four Minneapolis officers were arrested in his death: Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with second-degree murder. J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting. All four could get up to 40 years in prison.
Some of the mostly peaceful demonstrations that erupted after Floyd’s death were marked by bursts of arson, assaults, vandalism and smash-and-grab raids on businesses, with more than 10,000 people arrested. But protests in recent days have been overwhelmingly peaceful.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.