The mayor of Lexington, Ky., says he’s not a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Anonymous postings saying otherwise are “false, insulting and ridiculous,” Jim Gray said in a statement on Monday.
Gray, the city’s Democratic mayor, was responding to the release of names of purported KKK members by someone claiming to be with the hacktivist group Anonymous.
“I have never had any relationship of any kind with the KKK. I am opposed to everything it stands for. I have no idea where this information came from, but wherever it came from, it is wrong,” Gray said.
Others also named began to take to Twitter Monday to deny they were members. The postings came from someone using the Twitter handle TheAnonMessage who claimed to represent the group Anonymous. That global online activist network said last week it would expose Ku Klux Klan members and publish personal details about alleged KKK adherents.
The murky world of online activists was in full display later in Monday, when another person or group that says it’s affiliated with Anonymous — Operation KKK — posted that it had not released any information and implied that to do so was reckless.
We respect the work of our fellow freedom fighters. However, we are unable to confirm, deny or take credit for any work that we did not do.
— Operation KKK (@Operation_KKK) November 2, 2015
The data dump began to hit PasteBin, a site used to share and store text and computer code, on Sunday evening. As of Monday morning there had been four listings, including 57 phone numbers and 23 email addresses. Some also included spouses of the supposed KKK members. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., whose name appeared on one list, tweeted Monday that he was in no way involved with the KKK.
The Ku Klux Klan was founded after the Civil War by former Confederate soldiers to fight against the reforms imposed by the North during Reconstruction. It had a huge national resurgence in the 1920s on a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, largely fueled by bigotry against Jews, Catholics and blacks. The Klan gained prominence again in the 1950s and 1960s, infamously employing murder and terror in its efforts to counter the Civil Rights movement. Since then, the KKK, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as as “American racist terrorist organization,” has been weakened and now exists as a loose grouping of individual chapters, still espousing a doctrine of racial hatred. Anonymous claimed it would reveal the identity of 1,000 KKK members after gaining the information through a compromised Twitter account associated with the group. Anonymous also is promising to unleash a social media campaign against the KKK on Nov. 4, using the hashtag #HoodsOff.
— Operation KKK (@Operation_KKK) October 31, 2015
“This is just the beginning,” read a news release issued by Anonymous Sunday.