The FBI has arrested Ron Edwards, leader of the Kentucky-based Imperial Klans of America (IKA), and his girlfriend, Christine Gillette, for possession and distribution of controlled substances, including hydrocodone and methamphetamine. Authorities also arrested a third person, Jeremy Katro, for marijuana possession.
Strong ties to racist skinheads
Edwards, who ran the IKA from a private compound in Powderly, Kentucky, is known for his outreach to racist skinheads via an annual white power music festival, Nordic Fest, held on his land every Memorial Day weekend since 2000. Racist skinheads from all over the country have attended the concert, which features white power bands and speakers who promote a white supremacist ideology. Some racist skinhead groups often co-host the concert in conjunction with IKA. This year, the IKA and the Supreme White Alliance (SWA), a racist skinhead group based mostly in the Midwest, planned to co-sponsor the event.
Edwards’ son, Stephen, is a co-founder of the SWA, which received national attention in November 2008 when one of its members was arrested for plotting to kill African-Americans, including President Obama.
The IKA is one of the more “Nazified” Klan groups in the United States, part of an effort to appeal to young racists who relate more to the racist subculture and music of the skinhead scene than Klan traditions.
Association with violence
The IKA has a strong association with violence. In 2008, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) won a $2.5 million lawsuit against Edwards and the IKA on behalf of a Panamanian teenager who was brutally beaten by members of the group at a country fair in 2006, which left him with permanent injuries.
At the trial, a former IKA and Aryan Nations member, Kale Kelly, testified that in 1999 Edwards plotted to kill Morris Dees, a co-founder of the SPLC. Edwards was reportedly angry that the SPLC had brought a case that year against Aryan Nations, whose members had assaulted a mother and son who had mistakenly wandered near the group’s compound in a car. That case resulted in a $6.3 million judgment against Aryan Nations in 2000 and the loss of the group’s compound in Idaho.
Before Edwards lost the 2008 lawsuit, the IKA was one of the larger Klan groups in the country. The judgment against the group, however, led to a decline in membership and financial support. Edwards’ leadership role also deteriorated.
Edwards founded the IKA in the late 1990s under the banner of Christian Identity, a racist and anti-Semitic religious sect that appeals to many white supremacists.