Klan wizard turns back on Congress

By ED ROGERS   |   Dec. 9, 1980
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WASHINGTON -- A Ku Klux Klan 'imperial wizard' shouted, 'This is a lie!' during congressional testimony about the Klan's role in rising racial violence Tuesday, and stalked from the hearing before police could eject him.

The outburst flared as Arthur Kinoy of Rutgers University, vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, cited a growing list of incidents in which he said members of Klan groups were guilty of violence.

'This is a lie!' shouted Bill Wilkinson of Denham Springs, La., who lists himself as 'Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire.'

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., had already warned Wilkinson he would be ejected if he interrupted the hearing.

'I won't stay and listen to lies like that,' Wilkinson said. He walked out of Conyer's House Judiciary subcommittee on crime before a Capitol policeman could escort him out.

Wilkinson, confronted by a circle of black reporters outside, said his Klan group was being blamed for actions of 'self avowed' Klansmen who were not members of his national organization.

He said his members oppose violence, support minority rights, pledge to defend the Constitution, do not train guerrillas and do not call for a racial war.

'No, I'm not a racist,' he said, but added that the Klan believes in 'racial purity' and restoring 'free enterprise and equal opportunity' for whites.'

'We agree with most everything the Moral Majority stands for,' Wilkson said at another point.

He said he did not blame Ronald Reagan for disavowing Ku Klux Klan support but said, 'The Republican platform can be taken right out of Klan literature.'

Asked about his 'special forces camps,' Wilkinson said, 'We have training camps to defend our people. We have been attacked. I abhor killing. We detest the murders of 11 black children in Atlanta.'

Irwin Suall of B'nai B'rith's Anti-Defamation League testified Wilkinson's organization is one of the four largest nationwide Ku Klux Klans. There are numerous splinter groups, he said.

Membership in all Klan groups rose from an estimated 8,000 in 1978 to 10,000 in 1979, while there are believed to be 75,000 to 100,000 supporters or 'sympathizers,' Suall said.

He said the FBI, 'hamstrung' by guidelines that resulted from excessive attention to radical groups in the 1960s, now virtually ignores the Klan.

However, Assistant Attorney General Drew Days, in charge of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said the department investigated 24 Klan-related incidents this year, eight of which are still pending.

While there were no prosecutions of Klansmen in 1977 or 1978, Days said, there were two in 1979, and five Klansmen have been indicted this year.

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