ROME – The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office is investigating suspicious activity in Rome after Ku Klux Klan materials were found.
Deputies say they were called to Glen Road South in the city of Rome for a report of suspicious activity, and residents said they found weighted Ziploc bags with printed information inside about the united Northern & Southers Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
Deputies say the weighted bags were left at the end of multiple driveways between 4-6:30 a.m. Friday.
"I would like to say that I find the KKK an organization that encourages hatred and bigotry and I don’t condone this organization or anything it stands for," said Sheriff Rob Maciol in a statement. "I believe in unity and tolerance. The KKK is against all of those things. However with that said, I have taken an oath to uphold the constitutional rights of all citizens, which however repulsive includes the KKK. The leaving of these flyers and soliciting people to join the KKK is their right. I am very sensitive to those in the community that just the mention of the KKK causes anxiety and anger, but the US Constitution protects their right to free speech. If the actions of this group turns to soliciting people to commit violent acts, or they cross the line and break the law, the Sheriff’s Office will not hesitate to file criminal charges against them."
Valerie Streeter has lived on Glen Road South for 41 years and although her driveway wasn't one of those that saw the KKK literature Friday morning, she says she is concerned, especially since this is the third time this has happened in the past four months in this part of Oneida County, "I know we have freedom of speech and all that here, but it’s still not right."
We did reach out via email to try to get a response from the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan on whether they know who is distributing these flyers, and also their thoughts on the law enforcement looking for those that are doing so even though they haven't committed a crime, but so far have not received a response back.
If anybody has information about the investigation, including home security images, they’re asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 315-736-0141. All calls will remain confidential.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also issued a response to the situation on Friday, saying, in part, "I have directed State Police to investigate the appalling distribution of KKK material in several counties and send a clear message that New York has zero tolerance for intolerance. Today more than ever, New York must fight against hate crimes and stand as a beacon of equality and diversity."
Cuomo says the Hate Crimes Task Force, which was created in 2017, will hold a town hall in Oneida County "to discuss local concerns, educate the community on their rights, and explain how to report hate crimes." He did not provide a date or time when the town hall will be held.