Students at Indiana University (IU) experienced a case of KKK hysteria Monday, as students mistook a robed Catholic priest for a member of the now-defunct white supremacist group.
According to college news site The Tab, IU students began posting on Yik Yak and other social media Monday night about a mysterious figure in white robes roaming about campus, supposedly while carrying a whip.
One IU residential adviser even sent an email warning to his dormitory telling them to stay on the lookout for the menacing figure.
“There has been a person reported walking around campus in a KKK outfit holding a whip,” said Ethan Gill. “Please PLEASE PLEASE be careful out there tonight, always be with someone and if you have no dire reason to be out of the building, I would recommend staying indoors if you’re alone.”
There was no KKK threat to the campus. Instead, the white-robed figure was simply Fr. Jude McPeak, a Catholic priest wearing the traditional white robes of the Dominican order of friars. McPeak serves as associate pastor at St. Paul Catholic Center, IU’s Catholic church and student center. The “whip” students claimed to have seen was either his rosary or perhaps the rope belt he wore around his waist.
— Griffin Leeds (@GriffinLeeds) April 5, 2016
A few hours later, Gill apologized on Facebook for the overreaction.
“Behold, your ‘klansmember,'” he said. “A person saw white robes and what looked to them like a weapon, got scared (rightfully so), warned people, warned staff, which in turn caused me to warn my residents because I need to look out for my residents, which in turn made it spread … what I’ve learned from this is to take anything with a grain of salt.”
It’s not the first time a college campus has become hysterical over a phantom KKK presence. During a wave of protests at the University of Missouri in November, a rumor spread online that KKK members were roaming the campus with violent intent. Similarly, in 2013 Oberlin College students claimed to see a robed KKK figure walking about campus, whom police said was possibly just a woman wearing a blanket.
While the KKK looms large in the American public consciousness, the group itself is only a minor force in modern America, with a few thousand members scattered among rival organizations. (RELATED: More People Claim Alien Abduction Than KKK Membership)
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