MILFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joined members of the clergy and other community leaders on the steps of City Hall here Wednesday afternoon to denounce fliers delivered this week to homes around the city by splinter group that aligns itself with the Ku Klux Klan.
“Klan, you are not welcome in the state of Connecticut,” Malloy proclaimed at an afternoon news conference that drew at least four local television stations and a bevy of print and radio reporters. “No one in their right mind is asking you to be here.”
The governor acknowledged that he struggled with whether to respond to about 50 fliers distributed in two neighborhoods in this coastal community. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman also attended the press conference.
“At one point, I thought maybe we shouldn’t elevate the discussion any further,” Malloy said. But perhaps because the group’s name invokes the specter of the Ku Klux Klan. the episode drew significant news coverage and resulted in calls to his office, so he said he ultimately concluded that it warranted his attention.
“I started to get calls and inquiries at the office today,” Malloy said. “Based on that, I made a decision that if we didn’t respond, then that might be read as a response…If somebody had done something and nobody heard it, if a tree had fallen in the woods, perhaps we would respond differently, but people were hearing it.”
The leaflets circulated by the United Klans of America purported to promote a neighborhood watch group. “You can sleep well tonight knowing the UKA is awake!” the fliers say. They had been placed in Ziploc bags with rocks.
Distributed to 42 homes in the north end of town, near the Orange town line, the notices were discovered Tuesday morning, said Police Chief Keith Mello. Seven additional fliers were discovered in another neighborhood, near the West Haven line, on Wednesday, he said.
“These people are violating the law and they will be arrested and they will be charged,” Mello said, citing state statutes that prohibit leaving such material on a resident’s property without permission.
The group that distributed the fliers is based in Alabama and led by a minor Klan figure, said Gary Jones, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Connecticut office.
Jones said it was important for Malloy to come to Milford to condemn the United Klans of America. “This is not a big group,” he said, “but the point is, hate that does not get responded to tends to grow.”
Jones added, “you can always have a reasonable discussion in my opinion about what level response is the best level of response, but generally speaking, I think the ADL takes the position that ignoring hate is rarely a good thing. You want people to stand up, you want the leaders of the community, the grownups, the clergy to make it a point to say even though this may be an individual person doing something wrong, we don’t stand for this.”
Frank Lyons, a retiree who has lived in the city for more than 30 years, stood in the hot sun holding a sign that read “Hatred Does Not Belong in Milford.” He said he believes it was important for town and state leaders to condemn the fliers. “This thing is kind of insidious,” Lyons said. “It creeps in without people realizing it and by the time they do, it’s gone beyond the point of no return.”
Benjamin G. Blake, Milford’s Democratic mayor, said he felt it was important to send a message that the city of about 50,000 people embraces diversity. “We need to put out Milford’s position,” he said. “Our stance is that we’ve always…taught tolerance and made sure respect is what we live by, that’s the message we wanted to send out.”
As for the Klan fliers, “our hope is that this is [their] last news cycle,” Blake said.
Text by Daniela Altimari, Hartford Courant; Video by Ayana Harry, Fox CT.