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Friday, 14 May 2010

Has Klan got its hands in Queensland's Darling Downs? (Australia)

It's a question again being posed, after a local teacher was exposed as a senior KKK member.

Graeme Frederick McNeil, 46, was yesterday jailed for eight years after he faced court for helping cover up the brutal murder of a teenager in 2007.

Nineteen-year-old Robert Rowlingson had been shot and killed by his 16-year-old brother, Anthony Rowlingson, who McNeil was counselling at high school in Pittsworth, 40 kilometres outside Toowoomba.

Anthony Rowlingson is serving a life sentence for murder and has never revealed his motive for the killing, but the incident occurred after the older boy discovered KKK material on his brother's lap top.

Today's Australian newspaper linked the material to McNeil, saying documents showed he had confessed to police he was a KKK chaplain.

It is not the first time the Klan has been associated with the Darling Downs region.

In 2007, then state attorney-general Kerry Shine, a Toowoomba MP, referred to the state's Anti-Discrimination Commissioner pamphlets distributed around Toowoomba and Cairns promoting the US-based White Legion Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and asking people to join them in becoming klansmen or klanswomen.
Asked about the leaflet episode today, Mr Shine said to his knowledge nothing ever came of the investigation.
He said he had not heard of any KKK-related stirrings in the community since then.

"Not in the last couple of years," he said.

"I wouldn't be surprised if people ... had that One Nation-type view, we had 25 per cent One Nation vote up here."
Yet Mr Shine said he did not believe Toowoomba was particularly susceptible to KKK infiltration.

A Toowoomba Regional Council spokesman told brisbanetimes.com.au talk of a Klan headquarters or branch in the Darling Downs was "no more than rumours and innuendo".

However, a Toowoomba woman, who works with minority groups in the area, said she believed the KKK did have a presence the Darling Downs area.
"There is. But the last few years it's been much quieter, it's better not to give them any airtime," the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

Toowoomba is home to a large African community, mostly refugees from Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dr Mark Copland, the executive officer of the local Catholic Church's Social Justice Commission, said while the city itself was tolerant, there did exist a racist fringe.

Racist leaflets had been distributed and eggs thrown at the homes of African families, he said.
Last year, an Asian woman was racially abused by passengers in a car driven recklessly towards her as she walked home.

"But I think it's an ignorant minority," Dr Copland said.

"It's just a few members of the lunatic fringe. I like to think they would meet in a phone box, that's how many there are. Just your garden variety racists ... not anyone from the KKK that I'm aware of."

This morning a long-time resident of Pittsworth, where McNeil had taught maths and physics at high school, said residents there were "not hillbillies".
"Just because we had one bizarre individual living here .. doesn't mean Pittsworth should be painted as a racist hillbilly town," he said.
Whispers that there was a KKK branch or cluster of KKK members in the area were just rumours because "Pittsworth is a very racially tolerant town", he said.

Having lived in the area for the past 19 years, the resident, who did not want to be named, said there had been no acts of racial vilification or attacks of a racist nature against anyone.

"This teacher was, unfortunately, a dangerous eccentric," he said.

Brisbane Times