Cherri Delesline watched from her front yard as two pickup trucks she didn’t recognize drove down her street in North Charleston’s predominantly black Dorchester Waylyn community.
“Not to be rude or anything, but they were full of white people,” the 28-year-old woman said. A Confederate battle flag waved in the wind as the trucks passed, she said.
She approached her vehicle the following day, July 1, and was struck by what she saw: A flier purportedly from the Ku Klux Klan tucked beneath her windshield wiper.
“Neighborhood Watch. You can sleep tonight knowing the Klan is awake,” the flier said. A sketch of a hooded Klansman with blackened eyes and a finger pointed toward the reader topped the page.
The fliers distributed in North Charleston invite people to contact the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, one of the Klan’s many independent local groups, which is based in Park Hill, Mo.
The group has been seen in recent years in other tri-county cities. They twice distributed fliers in 2012 touting a KKK “neighborhood watch” that were left in baggies and weighed down with rocks in West Ashley neighborhoods.
Various fliers can be downloaded from the group’s website. A call asking for comment was not returned Tuesday.
The North Charleston fliers were dispersed two weeks after a gunman opened fire, killing nine parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, including the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney. Authorities have described the mass killing as a racially motivated hate crime.
The shooter intended to jump-start a war among the races, authorities said. Instead, the June 17 attack set off a wave of affirmations to strengthen racial relations. Roughly 15,000 people walked the Ravenel Bridge the Sunday after the killings to support the families and racial unity. Thousands waited in the streets to attend Pinckney’s funeral. And calls to take down the battle flag from the Capitol complex grounds ultimately were successful.
Delesline hopes to continue the dialogue by holding a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at a park on Wye Lane, across the street from the neighborhood, to discuss the Klan’s presence in Dorchester Waylyn, which is off Dorchester Road just west of Interstate 26.
“I think people need to be aware of everything that’s going on nowadays. This doesn’t need to come as a surprise to anybody,” Delesline said. “You never know what can happen, especially with it coming into our neighborhood. ... Everyone needs to come together. What affects one affects all.”
Delesline took matters into her own hands by passing out her own fliers that read “We say no to the KKK. This community stands together against racism.” Among the words is a single image — Two hands, one white and the other black, gripped in a handshake.
Several Dorchester Waylyn residents also reported being “cautious” in recent weeks of those they don’t recognize in the community.
After living for 20 years in his family home on Ranger Drive, Anthony Grant, 51, said he’s come to recognize those who frequent the predominantly black community on a regular basis.
He took note in recent weeks when he saw unfamiliar whites walking the streets with cameras, he said, though the occurrence didn’t cause him to worry.
He could only guess whether their presence was linked to the distribution of the fliers. Either way, he said he’d much rather focus on peace than the hate displayed by a select few. He suspected the majority of his neighbors would share in that sentiment.
“We’re not going to do the violence thing,” Grant said. “We’re not going there. You have to be the better person. ... There’s too many people losing their lives — too many people dying. Enough is enough.”
Grant served as a pallbearer last month at the funeral for 70-year-old Ethel Lance, one of nine people killed during the shooting at Emanuel AME.
Esther Lance, Lance’s daughter and a friend of Grant’s, also lives in the community on Niagara Street.
Letting the fliers upset her would serve little purpose, she said.
“It’s not going to bring my mama back,” Esther Lance said.
The woman’s time and energy would better be spent focusing on the needs of her family, which, she said, is “trying to get back to normal.”
She struggled to grasp why the KKK would target the neighborhood.
“They’d be crazy,” she said, to provoke the residents there.
Jesse Williams, the neighborhood association’s president, confirmed that residents in the community are concerned.
“Why would you put a KKK flier in a black neighborhood?” asked Williams, who is of Hawaiian descent.
He had no immediate estimate on how many residents received the KKK fliers.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the community will encourage residents to display Delesline’s fliers in their windows, he said.
Residents are right to be concerned, according to Kerry Taylor, an associate professor of history at The Citadel who has taught on race relations and the civil rights movement.
“I think we’re seeing the beginning of another wave of mass resistance in response to the removal of the flag from the Statehouse grounds,” he said. “I think we have to take it seriously.”
Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old suspected gunman in the shooting at Emanuel AME, posed with the Confederate flag on a website. The shootings at the church prompted lawmakers to move to take the flag off a pole in front of the Statehouse. The Klan fought for the flag to remain and protested its removal.
The Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which is headquartered in Pelham, N.C., plans to hold the rally Saturday in Columbia to protest the removal of the flag. Robert Jones, grand dragon for the group, told The Post and Courier last month that Roof was “heading in the right direction” but picked the wrong targets by focusing on a church.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC. Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.