Hundreds of thousands of people are demanding that the Ku Klux Klan be listed as a terrorist organization, with several online petitions rapidly gaining support.
A number of change.org petitions have gone viral this week demanding the white supremacist hate group be classified as terrorists, prompting them to be included among the top trends on Twitter.
One such petition calling for the KKK to be declared a terrorist organization reached 100,000 signatures before it closed.
“Black Americans have suffered the most under this terror group. Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims,” a description on the Change KKK status into Terrorist Organization petition reads: “We ask if ISIS or ISIL is labeled a terrorist group for their acts, then surely the KKK fit the clear description of a terrorist.”
The now-closed Declare the KKK a Terrorist Organization petition adds: “What kind of message is the government spreading by allowing the KKK to function? That it’s okay to be racist?
“Think about the pain African Americans endure every single day for the color of their skin. Think about how hard it must be for them to know that they can be murdered by a cop no matter their innocence, but a group that is inherently violent and racist is allowed to exist.”
The petitions gained tens of thousands of signatures after news broke that a Virginia man who allegedly drove into a crowd of George Floyd protesters is a KKK leader.
Harry Rogers, 36, of Richmond, is accused of “driving recklessly” down a street in Henrico County before revving his engine and driving into a crowd of people demonstrating the death of the black Minneapolis man on Sunday.
“The accused, by his own admission and by a cursory glance at social media, is an admitted leader of the Ku Klux Klan and a propagandist for Confederate ideology,” Commonwealth Attorney Shannon Taylor said in a statement. “We are investigating whether hate crimes charges are appropriate.”
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump also said he intends to list the left-wing anarchist movement antifa as a terrorist organization—which legal experts say predict will be hard to implement.
Currently, the KKK is classed as a domestic extremist group rather than a terrorist organization.
Extremist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda are labeled terrorists because they are international organizations that threaten the security of the U.S., meaning there is currently no grounds to label domestic far-right groups such as the KKK similarly.
People in the U.S. expressing far-right and white supremacists views can also be protected under the First Amendment, unlike those promoting international terrorist ideology.
Under current legislation, domestic terrorism is not a federal crime, meaning suspects linked to far-right attacks are charged under hate crime laws—as seen with KKK leader Rogers’s case in Virginia.
David Hickton, a former U.S. Attorney who directs the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, previously described to Time the frustration of the loophole.
“White supremacy is a greater threat than international terrorism right now,” he said. “I’d have to pursue a white supremacist with hate crimes, unless he interfaced with Al-Qaeda. Does that make any sense?”
In April, the Trump administration labeled a white supremacist group as a terrorist organization for the first time, although it is not U.S. based.
The Russian Imperialist Movement has been linked to neo-Nazi bombings across Sweden in 2016 and 2017, as well as providing military training for white supremacists.
Listing an organization a terrorist group will mean that Americans can be prosecuted for providing material or providing financial support to them. Their members can also be blocked from entering the U.S.
The State Department has been contacted for comment.