A rash of KKK propaganda has captured state and federal attention.
Over the last couple of months, residents in Van Buren County have woken up to find white supremacist material thrown onto their lawns. The US Department of Justice and the US Attorney's Office want the public to know they take these incidents seriously.
"We're here, first and foremost, because we care, we're concerned and we want to talk to people about what a hate crime is, what we can do when groups cross the line into illegal activity, what they should be looking out for and what they can do when that happens," said Nick Klinefeldt of the US Attorney's Office of the Southern District of Iowa.
The US Attorney's Office teamed up with the Department of Justice's Community Relations Service, which was created by the Civil Rights Act in 1964 to be the peacemaker for communities with hate crimes. So what is a hate crime? The DOJ defines it as, "violence of intolerance and bigotry intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or disability". But the key is knowing when a citizen's first amendment right crosses the line into illegal activity.
"It becomes illegal if they're inciting criminal activity," Klinefeldt said. "That could include violence, it could also include intimidating people into not doing things that they are federally entitled to do."
Goldy Laymon, a pastor in Bonaparte and Farmington, said some of her congregation grew up with segregation and the fear now is just as real as it was then. She hopes to take back a message to her community.
"That I can bring back assurance and peace and know that we stand for justice and that we will stand with the people in this community," Laymon said.
All the officials and the departments present at the meeting Tuesday said the best thing to do is if you see something, say something. Let your sheriff's office know so they can handle the issue in the right way.