Bomb threat and KKK anti-gay flyers result from Jacksonville HRO discussion

By : Jeremy Williams
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JacksonvilleBigotFlyersJacksonville, Fla. – The Ku Klux Klan distributed flyers encouraging gay bashing throughout Jacksonville neighborhoods Nov. 20.

The flyers were distributed in the Riverside area, well-known as Jacksonville’s LGBT neighborhood, as well as in the Mandarin and Southside neighborhoods, according to Jimmy Midyette of Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, a civil rights group who has been working to get sexual orientation and gender identity added to the city’s Human Rights Ordinance.

“I think the opponents of equality, at least it seems, are frustrated by the process because we have a Republican mayor who is leading it. I think that this is the way their frustration has bubbled out, with this hate,” Midyette says.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who spoke with Nov. 23, said these threats are the “lowest forms of human behavior and bigotry.”

The flyers, which were placed in bags of rice, read “STOP AIDS, support gay bashing” and are from the Loyal White Knights of the KKK. The flyer includes a “Klan Hotline” as well as a website.

The hotline, a North Carolina number, leads to a message describing a recent news story involving the death of a one-year-old black child. The message concludes with “always remember if it ain’t white, it ain’t right. White power.”

The flyer also states “ban non-white immigration, outlaw Haitians and deport mud people.”

The bill is expected to be filed with the City Council by early 2016. “Equality Florida members in Jacksonville have responded to these ugly, hateful attacks by redoubling their commitment to securing these long overdue protections,” Equality Florida’s executive director Nadine Smith said in a statement to Watermark. “We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the local leadership team and all fair minded people in Jacksonville who refuse to be intimidated by those who seek to use fear to block progress. In their own twisted way, they have made the clearest argument for passing the protections they seek to block.”

Mandarin resident Kelly Ramdial and her husband went throughout their neighborhood, gathering the flyers up and throwing them away, she told News4Jax.

“I saw a truck go by, throwing things in people’s yards and saw what it was, and it was extremely offensive. A flyer asking people to join the KKK. We were worried at first, because we’re an interracial couple and didn’t know if we were being targeted,” Ramdial said.

Midyette says he heard reports of a champagne colored truck in the neighborhoods distributing the flyers, but no arrests have been made.
The flyers were distributed the same day a 25-year-old Jacksonville man was arrested for a voicemail he left saying he would bomb a Dec. 3 community meeting at Edward Waters College. The meeting is to discuss the city’s proposed Human Rights Ordinance.

Benjamin Harris Manses left the message on the voicemail of a Florida Times-Union reporter Nov. 19. He was arrested at his home in Arlington Nov. 20, according to the police report. No bomb was found at the residence.

Manses told police that he was drunk and did not mean what he said, according to the report.

Curry said “the public ought to feel good about the quick arrest” and added that “public safety is top priority.”

Midyette says that while specifics cannot be discussed, “Security is being heightened for the Dec. 3 meeting to ensure everyone is safe.”

Even with the attacks, those supporting the HRO have not wavered in their efforts to get it passed. The Jacksonville Coalition for Equality has announced the endorsement of prominent Jacksonville reverend R.L. Gundy, as well as dozens of other local faith leaders. This is a big change from 2012 when Gundy and a gaggle of evangelical leaders spoke out against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s HRO.

“I used to criticize people who were gay but then, I had a young man in my church who died from AIDS,” Gundy said to WJCT. “When I went to the hospital to talk with him, I said ‘Why didn’t you come talk to me?’ And he said, ‘Pastor, I didn’t feel like I could talk to you. I didn’t feel like the church would accept me.'”

Gundy said that is a moment that still haunts him today, and if the church had been more accepting perhaps the young man would still be alive today.

“From that point on, I started doing more and more research. I started engaging myself into what this LGBT was really all about,” Gundy said.

The Dec. 3 meeting is the second in a series of three called “Community Conversations” and will focus on the theme of religious freedom, thoughts and beliefs. The meetings were ordered by the mayor in order to gauge public opinion on the HRO. The final meeting is scheduled for Dec. 15.

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