A disturbing photo has emerged showing a man identified as Charles Michael Booth walking his dog in rural Wisconsin while wearing what appears to be a KKK hood and robe. However, the local sheriff says it’s not a crime.
Rachel Byington of Madison first posted the picture on Facebook, writing, “Hey Vilas County folks. A friend took this photo near the Lakota boat landing off of Highway K in Conover. Be careful. I did not take the picture and the person who did wants to remain anonymous.” People on her comment thread claimed the Ku Klux Klan is a presence in that area of northern Wisconsin and conducts meetings. She said the photo was taken on June 12, 2020.
An Iron River, Wisconsin woman also shared the photo on her Facebook page, writing, “I hear – or read of – so many folks thinking that this ‘whole racism’ thing is blown out of proportion. This is a pic of a person walking his dog in Vilas Co. a couple of days ago. 😔😔.”
A woman responded on the comment thread, “You have got to be kidding me,” to which the woman replied, “apparently the sheriff checked it out. It is not against the law to wear kkk robes.😒” Another person asked, “What is that supposed to be?” She responded, “It is a man in his ku klux klan robe and hood.” It’s not clear who originally took the picture.
According to WJFW-TV, the sheriff of Vilas County, Wisconsin, Joe Fath, verified that the picture is real. His department received a call about the photo on June 12.
“We received a call that a gentleman was walking on Highway K out by Monheim Road wearing a white Ku Klux Klan robe, drinking a beer and waving at traffic,” said Fath, to the television station.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Man’s Identity Was Exposed
The man was identified as Charles Michael Booth of Conover, according to the television station’s report. Conover is a community of about 1,200 people located in northern Wisconsin.
“He was walking down Highway K, which is about two to three miles out of Conover,” said Fath to the TV station. “It’s a country road. It’s not in anybody’s particular neighborhood. It should not have bothered anybody. I realize that that may be offensive to some people, but its not a crime.”
According to Wisconsin Circuit Court Access, Booth was convicted of criminal damage to property in 2013 and is 50 years old. In 2006, he was convicted of second-offense OWI and disorderly conduct, court records show.
One local business wrote on Facebook, “Unfortunately this is Mike Booth, the husband of an employee who no longer works for us as I have been I have informed (sic) of this. Absolutely no tolerance for this. I’m sick.” The business added on its Facebook page that it “has a no tolerance policy for racism or discrimination of any kind. It is terrible to see that members of our community are upholding these ideals. Everyone is entitled to their opinion; no one is entitled to be ignorant.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that in 2019 it had tracked 15 hate groups in Wisconsin. The SPLC listed white nationalist groups and neo-Nazi groups among them but not the KKK. In 2015, the site listed multiple active KKK groups in the country.
“The Ku Klux Klan, with its long history of violence, is the oldest and most infamous of American hate groups. Although Black Americans have typically been the Klan’s primary target, it also has attacked Jews, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community and, until recently, Catholics,” SPLC says. “After several years of declining numbers, the Klan experienced relative stability in 2019. While many groups dropped in numbers or shuttered altogether, others re-emerged and gained new chapters.”
In a separate incident, a man wore a KKK hood into a Vons grocery store in Santee, California. He was not charged after claiming it was a mask to protect against coronavirus and he didn’t mean it as a racial statement, according to NBC News.