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Bill to ban Klan's unauthorized use of newspapers advances

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CALIFORNIA--After being amended several times, legislation attempting to make it a crime for the Ku Klux Klan to insert hate…

CALIFORNIA–After being amended several times, legislation attempting to make it a crime for the Ku Klux Klan to insert hate literature into newspapers cleared the Senate Public Safety Committee in early July on a 6-0 vote.

The bill, A.B. 417, was amended after the Anti-Defamation League expressed concerns that the bill was unconstitutionally overbroad. The committee narrowed the bill by creating “the crime of theft of services,” which would make it a crime for any person to attach or insert an advertisement in any newspaper and redistribute it to the public without the consent of the publisher or an authorized distributor.

The legislation, sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, was prompted by a Ku Klux Klan “nightriding” campaign last year. “Nightriding” is what the Klan calls its practice of gathering copies of free newspapers, inserting race-baiting materials inside them and distributing them to homes.

Residents of the homes assumed that the newspapers sold insert advertising services to the Klan and complained to the publishers. When the newspapers went to local authorities seeking assistance, they were told that “since the newspapers were not offered for sale, there was nothing that could be done,” according to the CNPA.

Newspapers in Pennsylvania, Texas, Indiana and North Carolina have also been hit by nightriding campaigns, according to the CNPA. Jeff Berry, a national imperial wizard of an Indiana chapter of the KKK, told the CNPA that nightriding is an effort to promote the Klan’s philosophy and recruit new members, and the practice is legal. “We checked with civil liberty lawyers and all that, and what we’re doing is legal,” Berry said, according to the CNPA.

The bill will next be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee. (A.B. 417)