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Mount Oliver man behind KKK rally

Wednesday, October 27, 1999

By Dennis B. Roddy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A Ku Klux Klan faction threatening to rally in Pittsburgh in December is led by a Mount Oliver man who helped organize a similar rally in Butler County 19 months ago.

Mike Maiolo, 39, who calls himself the "Rev. Mike Mariot" in Klan correspondence, handled many of the arrangements for a rally by the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan outside the Butler County Courthouse on March 28 last year. Five spectators were arrested for fighting during the rally.

Later the same year, Maiolo resigned as grand dragon of the American Knights and founded the Union Knights in an internal political rift that is common within Klan factions.

He predicted that his rally, planned for the steps of the City-County Building, will face fewer obstacles than the American Knights did two years ago, when the Klan went to court to force the city to grant a special events permit.

"I don't think we're going to have too much opposition from the city, because they lost big-time the last time," Maiolo said. "We have a right to be there, and we'll be there."

Maiolo said his group has no plans to seek a permit. His members, he said, will simply show up on Dec. 4 and rally between the hours of 1 and 3 p.m.

They have requested no special security arrangements, unlike the American Knights, whose bellicose 1997 rally featured venomous rhetoric, thousands of counter-protesters and Nazi regalia, and cost taxpayers more than $88,000 for security.

"We're nothing like them," Maiolo said.

Maiolo, who describes himself as a blue-collar Pittsburgher, is the son of a woman who made the news two years ago when she was one of two innocent bystanders hit after gunfire erupted at a Mount Oliver bus stop. She suffered a hand wound. The shooting was part of an apparent gang war for which two young men were arrested.

While Klan associates described the incident as pivotal in Maiolo's tilt toward white supremacist ideas, Maiolo, in a telephone interview, said he had become involved with Klan factions earlier.

"I was dealing with the Klan long before that," he said. "I've lived in this town my whole life. I've seen what's happening."

The use of "reverend" is common among contemporary Ku Klux Klan leaders, who publicly position the organization as a church. Maiolo said he does not actually consider himself a minister but uses the title because "you get a little more freedom of speech with that."

Law enforcement authorities have known of Maiolo for at least a year. This summer, an application in his name for the purchase of a shotgun from a Butler County store was placed on "hold" while authorities did a more extensive background check. The sale was later approved, according to store records.

The emergence of Maiolo's Klan group makes it the fifth with a presence in Western Pennsylvania. In addition to the Union Knights and the American Knights, the region is home to the Cambria County-based Keystone Knights; the Invisible Empire, Pennsylvania faction led by C. Edward Foster in Jefferson County; and a branch of the Imperial Klans of America, a Kentucky-based group that holds both cross and swastika burnings.

The Union Knights have attracted little attention, organizing primarily through computer chat rooms, according to Maiolo. The Southern Poverty Law Center's Klanwatch project had previously listed the Union Knights headquarters as being in Butler County.

Jeff Berry, Imperial Wizard of the American Knights, says he believes Maiolo's group is unlikely to match the turnout he produced almost three years ago.

"He's a computer Klansman," Berry said of Maiolo.

Maiolo, who runs his branch of the Klan using a rented post office box in Mount Oliver, insists he has plenty of members, but declined to say how many. Maiolo notified city officials that the Klan plans a demonstration of its members "as well as members from a number of other groups."

Yesterday, he said the other groups "might" include members of racist skinhead or neo-Nazi organizations, although he would not permit Nazi flags and regalia to be waved during the rally as they were during the 1997 American Knights rally. "Nazis are anti-American," he said.

At the same time, he said he has organized rallies for other Klan groups that included fascist skinheads.

"They're good people," he said.

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