The 28-acre compound in Dawson Springs, Ky., that the nation’s second-largest Ku Klux Klan outfit calls home features a high gate with armed guards and an open field for burning crosses. Southern Poverty Law Center wants to take it all away. The civil rights group contends in a lawsuit that the Imperial Klans of America incited members to severely beat a Latino teen at a county fair. The center hopes its case will bankrupt this Klan group, a tactic the center has used to decimate other racist organizations.
Jury selection in the case began Wednesday. “We want to put a stop to this kind of violence,” said Richard Cohen, president of the center, which is suing on behalf of the victim. The case stems from a 2006 attack on Jordan Gruver that left the teen with two cracked ribs and a arm. The center claims Jarred Hensley of Cincinnati and Andrew Watkins of Louisville were recruiting on behalf of the Klan at the Meade County fair, about two hours east of their headquarters, and attacked Gruver because he is Latino. The center, based in Montgomery, Ala., won a $6.3 million verdict from Aryan Nations in 2000, which forced the group to sell its Idaho compound. The center won a $7 million verdict from United Klans in 1987 after a lynching in Mobile, Ala.