OLYMPIA – After George Floyd’s death, 27-year-old Jose Cardenas found himself sharing many Black Lives Matter resources and information on Twitter. As he was scrolling last week, Cardenas came across a tweet that surprised him: “Friendly reminder: the KKK is still not considered a terrorist organization.”
He immediately messaged a friend. “Hey, is there something we can do about this?”
Cardenas, of Kennewick , decided to start a Change.org petition urging the Department of Homeland Security to designate the KKK as a terrorist organization. In just five days, the petition attracted more than 1 million signatures. As of Sunday afternoon, the petition was approaching 1.5 million signatures.
“This would be a really good step toward dismantling all these systems that have this systemic racism integrated within them,” Cardenas said.
Cardenas said he always anticipated it would get at least 1 million signatures. Most people who sign are shocked that the KKK is not already considered a terrorist organization, he said.
The infamous white supremacist group, well-known for its lynching and murdering of Black Americans, is currently considered a domestic extremist group by the Department of Homeland Security.
There are no KKK-affiliated groups currently in Washington, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Cardenas, however, said he’s encountered people in this state who feel it is acceptable to be actively racist.
When this well-known white supremacist group isn’t considered a terrorist group, Cardenas said, it sends the message that it is OK to think like that.
“Considering them a terrorist organization would be a small step in tackling that bigger mindset,” he said.
Cardenas’ petition is one of many calling for racial justice on Change.org, an organization that allows anyone to create online petitions and campaigns. Since the death of George Floyd, the site has seen 52 new petitions in its “Justice Now” movement. About 77 million people have signed these petitions, which include calls for justice for victims of police violence, a ban on rubber bullets during protests and defunding police.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, said Friday that Floyd’s death represented a shocking failure in the country’s justice system. While many have peacefully protested, she added, fringe groups have caused destruction.
“Those who seek to terrorize our communities should be categorized as terrorist organizations,” she said in a statement. “That includes groups like the KKK, but also groups like antifa who are currently attacking communities across the country.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Friday there is no question that the KKK is a terrorist organization, and that federal law enforcement should make combating white supremacist groups a top priority:
“Efforts to push for change, from protests to petitions, are making a difference, and I urge everyone to keep listening, learning and acting to upend white supremacy in our state and country.”
While change does not always come from these petitions, Amanda Mustafic, senior communications manager at Change.org, said the organization works with numerous petitioners to help bring their ideas to fruition.
She said they’ve seen numerous legislative and corporate victories that started out on their site.
For example, Emerald Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, started two petitions on Change.org calling for justice for her father, as well as making criminal the use of chokeholds that result in injury or death.
Garner’s death outside a Staten Island beauty supply store prompted a national outcry in July 2014, as he was put in a chokehold after being approached on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes.
A bill criminalizing the use of chokeholds that result in injury or death passed earlier this month in the New York State Assembly, Mustafic said.
Cardenas said he plans to take his petition to the next steps. He’s started writing emails to the Department of Homeland Security, hoping to schedule meetings to discuss the idea further.
He’s had such a positive reaction from signatures, Cardenas said, and he knows Americans want this.
“This is just the first step,” Cardenas said. “This is where it begins, and this is not where it ends.”
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