News

Tulsa elected official apathetic towards KKK employee​

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“I and all that work for this office, have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, part of which is the protection of free speech.” Donald Newberry

  • Bonnie Kukla has been identified as a member of the Ku Klux Klan
  • Don Newberry apathy frustrates Tulsans of color to demand changes 
  • Anonymous local activist continue to push for her removal

By Deon Osborne, contributing writer | Published 06/14/2019 | Reading Time 3 min 9 sec

Tulsa Klan Watch: anonymous group seeks to kick KKK Kukla out of County government position

Months after a hate-tracking website revealed Tulsa County employs an open Ku Klux Klan member, and amidst a city-wide celebration of the Juneteenth holiday commemorating the end of slavery, an anonymous group of activists have been steadily working to remove a white supremacist from her government position at the Tulsa County Court Clerk’s office, located at 500 South Denver Avenue.

Hate Trackers revealed in a late February blog post that Bonnie Kukla—A.K.A, KKK Kukla— handles county government records by day and actively recruits members to the KKK by night.

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Most notably, she and her husband Steve have been captured on a now-removed video, singing “The Old Rugged Cross” at a ceremony for the Knight’s party, also known as the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

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Bonnie and Stephen Kukla 

After an initial flurry of articles sharing the revelation, an outraged black activist and former candidate for Congress stormed through the Equality Center when a former board member defended Kukla retaining her taxpayer-funded position in the Tulsa County Court Clerk’s office.

The Equality Center’s Bishop Baldwin eventually resigned from the board, and the outrage over a KKK member’s continued employment in county government seemed to fade from public discourse.

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Yet, since April, a select few activists who call themselves Tulsa Klan Watch, have chosen not to give up. The group quietly organized a coordinated campaign of emails, letters and phone calls to the Tulsa County Court Clerk, Don Newberry, and other members of his office, demanding they rectify the situation.

Members of the group have asked the Black Wall Street Times to remain anonymous out of fear of physical retaliation or losing their jobs. To protect their identities, Heather, Helen, Kevin and Rhys adopted pseudonyms to safely share their story.

“Right after all the stuff went down with the Equality Center, we knew that we needed to just regroup and focus on Bonnie Kukla,” Heather said.

She and her team started by sending a letter to the clerk’s office on April Fool’s day. The letter included miniature KKK hoods and a note that read: “there’s no KKK member in the Tulsa County Clerk’s Office.”

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Heather said the group had to change meeting locations after being surveilled by an unmarked vehicle.

Kevin said he got involved because he was tired of seeing people complain about what’s wrong with the city/county and not doing anything to change it.

“They’ve known about her for years and nobody f*cking thought it was a problem,” Kevin said.

Helen reiterated Kevin’s frustration, saying that the issue of Bonnie Kukla retaining her government position has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with hate speech.

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“I got involved because it’s not something I can tolerate,” Helen said. “And it shouldn’t be tolerated. Elected officials don’t like to address certain issues. This is one of those issues.”

When asked whether Bonnie Kukla still has her job at the office despite disapproval from residents, Tulsa County Court Clerk’s Chief Deputy, Vickie Goodson, said “yes.”

And when asked: What office workers’ reaction to the Tulsa Klan Watch’s letters were? A secretary named Carol said, “Nobody cares. No comment. Okay?”

So far, local officials claim their hands are tied, according to the Frontier.

Yet precedent has been set for firing a government worker for their ties to white supremacist hate groups.

Florida’s Fruitland Park Police Department fired officers as high-ranking as the sheriff in 2009 and in 2014 after their Klan activities were revealed.

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As recently as 2018, a Georgia police officer was suspended for liking Facebook posts that promoted the KKK, a violent white supremacist group considered one of the first domestic terrorist organizations in U.S. history.

White supremacists have been responsible for numerous killings of Black, Jewish and other minorities in just the last year. In April 2019, FBI Director, Christopher Wray, described white supremacy as a “persistent” and “pervasive” threat to the United States, according to CNN.

Rhys, another member of Tulsa Klan Watch, said Bonnie Kukla’s membership in the KKK should be unacceptable to the Tulsa County Court Clerk’s elected officials.

“It doesn’t matter if someone materially participates in the actions of that group or not,” Rhys said. “If they are part of that group, it lends credence to that group.”

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Members say they have organized “phone zips,” emails, and sent in more than 500 pieces of mail to the clerk’s office, condemning Don Newberry’s apathy to his employee’s white supremacist actions in a city that is two years away from honoring the 100-year anniversary of the Greenwood Massacre, the largest racially motivated massacre against prosperous black citizens in the history of this country.


20180710_161309Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has written for OU’s student newspaper the OU Daily as well as OKC-based Red Dirt Report. Deon received the Governor’s Commendation in 2017 for his videography highlighting a statewide distracted driving prevention program and runs a freelance video marketing service at indepthwithdeonfilms.com. He now lives in Tulsa, where he works as a policy intern at the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

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