Here’s a First: KKK and NAACP Hold a Meeting

A first-ever sit-down between the white supremacist group the and historically black civil rights group

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Alan Rogers / Casper Star-Tribune / AP

The leadership of the NAACP Casper branch speak with John Abarr, far right, a kleagle of the United Klans of America out of Great Falls, Mont., on Saturday night, Aug. 31, 2013 at the Parkway Plaza hotel in Casper, Wyo.

Representatives from the Ku Klux Klan and the NAACP met secretly at a Wyoming hotel last weekend in the first-ever meeting between the white supremacist group and the historically black civil rights group, the Associated Press reports.

Jimmy Simmons, president of the Casper, Wyo. branch of the NAACP, said he wanted to discuss race relations, reports of KKK literature being distributed in the state and alleged beatings of black men. John Abarr, a KKK organizer from Great Falls, Mont., who acted as the Klan’s representative at the meeting, said he knew nothing of the beatings or the distribution of literature.

Critics say that the meeting was a mistake for the NAACP. “I think it’s outrageous and counterproductive,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It gives legitimacy to the Klan as an organization you can talk to.”

But the meeting ended with Abarr paying $50 to join the civil rights organization. He told the AP that he filled out the membership form so he could get some insight into the organization’s views.