A northern Georgia chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, the infamous white supremacy group, has recently applied to Union County, Georgia, to adopt a mile long stretch of highway. The group claims it’s actions are not a publicity stunt, and also stated that they are not racist.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has confirmed the application’s existence. The decision is still in the air, and surprisingly not the first of it’s kind. A chapter of the KKK in Missouri was able to adopt a stretch of I-55 because they could not be legally barred from participating in the adopt-a-highway program. However, they were eventually kicked out of the program for not picking up trash as agreed. The stretch was then named after civil-rights activist Rosa Parks. Another case was in Delaware involving a Neo-Nazi group adopting a stretch in a rural community, which was allowed after changing the name on the sign from “Nazi Party” to “Freedom Party”. A third example was when California Department of Transportation dealt with similar issues with allowing and later moving the stretch of highway cleaned by an anti-illegal immigrant group in 2008.
Since the application’s filing, controversy has ensued on the intentions of the KKK for adopting the highway. April Chambers, the chapter’s secretary, states “We’re doing it to keep the mountains beautiful. People throwing trash out on the side of the road…that ain’t right.” She also further commented stating that the group is not racist, but simply proud to be white and enjoy the company of other whites.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed the KKK as “the most infamous — and oldest — of American hate groups.” However, Chambers insists “We’re not a hate group…We don’t hate anybody. We’re just white people that want to stick with white people. The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) wants to stick with black people. Just because I’m white, I can’t stick with my own group?”
With the group’s infamous abusive past throughout American history, including physical abuse or murders of others, damage to properties, and threats made to incur fear or abandonment of jobs or homes in an area inhabited by KKK members, it’s of no surprise that many are opposed of their adoption of the stretch of highway. State Rep. Tyrone Brooks worked against the group’s adoption application, and it was denied on Tuesday. This has lead the KKK to ask the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for help in the adoption process.
Keith Golden, commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, wrote to the KKK’s secretary that the stretch of land they chose was not safe because of the speed limit in that area. He also stated that it would cause civil disturbance among residents and that the “Impacts include safety of the traveling public, potential social unrest, driver distraction or interference with the flow of traffic.” Interviews of long-time residents of the area support Golden’s argument, stating they are uncomfortable with the situation’s impact on the community and it’s reputation.
The ACLU has rebuttals to this denial of application, but are still gathering facts to decide whether they will take on the case. The main question regarding the issue is whether the sign is a form of speech. If so, the government cannot deny it without infringing on the right to freedom of speech. However, if the sign is seen as a government endorsement of the group, the government then has a right to refuse it’s erection.