More than 1 million people have signed a petition for US to designate the KKK as a domestic terrorist organisation instead of extremist group

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A member of the Nordic Order Knights, a group that claims affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, displays his collection of KKK memorabilia in a fellow member’s home in Henry County, Virginia, August 9, 2014. Johnny Milano/Reuters
  • A Change.org petition called “Change KKK status into Terrorist Organisation” has garnered more than 1 million signatures in the 6 days it has been posted.
  • The Ku Klux Klan are currently categorised as a domestic extremist group in the United States.
  • The US Department of State defines foreign terrorist groups, including al Qaeda and ISIS, but does not formally recognise US-based groups as terrorist organisations.
  • President Trump recently announced that the US would designate Antifa as a domestic terrorist organisation, but it’s unclear what that could mean since domestic terrorism is not a federal offence.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

More than 1 million people have signed a Change.org petition calling for the US to formally label the Ku Klux Klan as a terrorist organisation in the 6 days since it has been published.

The petition, created by user Jose Cardenas, argues that the KKK “has a long history of murder and intimidation of people based on colour and religion.”

The petition page cites crimes led by KKK members since its inception in 1865, including, but not limited to, the lynchings of thousands of Black Americans and the destruction of towns, places of worship, and communities.

“Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims. We ask if ISIS or ISIL is labelled a terrorist group for their acts, then surely the KKK fit the clear description of a terrorist,” the petition continues.

Klu klux klan protester
A protester holding a sign in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, where the KKK planned to hold a rally in May 2017. Mark Makela/Getty Images

The petition aims to label the KKK as a domestic terrorist organisation, which is not currently defined by the US government

The Patriot Act, which was passed following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, provides a definition for domestic terrorism.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation further describes domestic terrorism as “violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.”

While the US Department of State has a list of formally designated foreign terrorist organisations – including al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and HAMAS, among others – there is no law that refers to any US-based groups as domestic terrorist organisations.

Currently, the KKK is defined as a domestic extremist group, according to The Hill and Newsweek.

As The Hill reporter Joseph Guzman wrote: “There is currently no domestic terrorism statute, nor does the federal government have the ability to designate a domestic group as a terrorist organisation, fuelling questions about what the designation would mean in practical terms.”

It remains unclear what designating the KKK as a domestic terrorist organisation could change in terms of how people accused of committing a crime associated with the group are punished since domestic terrorism is not considered a federal offence. Currently, people accused of taking part in an attack associated with the KKK or other domestic extremist groups can face hate crime charges.

KKK counter protests dayton OH
Counter-protesters held placards as they faced a KKK-affiliated group at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, on May 23, 2019. Megan Jelinger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

It’s not the first recent discussion involving the definition of domestic terrorist groups in the US

The Change.org petition created by Cardenas, and similar petitions calling for formal recognition of the KKK as a terrorist group, are not the first instances of conversation over what actually constitutes domestic terrorist organisations in the US.

On May 31, President Donald Trump tweeted that the US would designate Antifa as a domestic terrorist organisation.

Trump had previously blamed Antifa, short for anti-fascist, and other left-wing groups for riots and looting that came as a result of protests over the May 25 murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

There was also a push to make domestic terrorism a federal crime, which came from the FBI Agents Association in August 2019. The association, which represents more than 14,000 active and former FBI agents, called on Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime following mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.