GA DOT Denies KKK Application to Adopt Highway

By: Errin Haines, AP
By: Errin Haines, AP

GA DOT Denies KKK Application to Adopt Highway

Atlanta, GA (AP) -- June 12, 2012 --

The Georgia Department of Transportation has declined to accept a Ku Klux Klan group's application to join the state's "Adopt-A-Highway" program.

The International Keystone Knights of the KKK in Union County applied last month to adopt part of Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains. In a statement Tuesday, the agency says "promoting an organization with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest would present a grave concern" and could "have the potential to negatively impact the quality of life" of people in the county and state.

Organizers said they wanted to preserve the area's scenic beauty, but critics balked at the move as an offensive publicity stunt.

The state's program enlists volunteers from groups and companies to pick up trash, and volunteers are recognized with a sign along the road they adopt.

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KKK group aims to adopt highway for litter control
by Errin Haines

Atlanta, GA (AP) -- June 11, 2012 --

A Ku Klux Klan group is trying to join Georgia's "Adopt-A-Highway" program to clean up litter on a mile-long stretch of road, creating a quandary for state officials hesitant to acknowledge a group with a violent, racist past on a roadside sign.

The International Keystone Knights of the KKK applied last month to adopt part of Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains. The Georgia Department of Transportation is meeting with lawyers from the state Attorney General's Office on Monday to decide how to proceed.

The program enlists volunteers from groups and companies to pick up trash. Each group that volunteers is named on a sign along the road it adopts.

April Chambers, the KKK group's secretary, said she applied for the program to keep the scenic highway beautiful, not for publicity.

"I live in the mountains and I want to keep them beautiful," Chambers said, adding that tourists frequently litter along the road as they pass through. "We didn't intend on this being big. I don't know why anybody's offended by it."

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks said he welcomes the opportunity to educate Chambers and the group about the Klan's legacy of violence and racism - which he experienced first-hand as a civil rights activist in the fight to end segregation in the South.

"I'd like to sit down with this young lady and say, `Your organization tried to kill me,'" Brooks said Monday, adding that he finds even the notion of a highway sign identifying the Ku Klux Klan as a civic group "insulting and insane."

Brooks, who is president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, said the group will pursue legal action should the KKK's application be approved.

"If the state would allow them to plant their name on one of its public highways in the home of Martin Luther King Jr. and Jimmy Carter, we would have to fight it with all of the resources at our disposal," Brooks said. "If we lose, we would ask the state to abolish the program. It's not worth it."

Ed Martin, who moved to Union County from Tennessee seven years ago, said the community is the only place he has ever felt at home - until now. Martin said littering is not a problem in the area. He said the only trash on the highway would be a sign promoting a Klan group, something he doesn't want to have to drive by every day.

He said the sign would be a divisive symbol in the community.

"Listen, there ain't a whole hell of a lot of black people in Union County, but everybody here gets along," Martin said.

According to the latest Census figures, the county is 97 percent white and less than 1 percent black.

Attorney General spokeswoman Lauren Kane confirmed that the agency met with the Transportation Department on Monday. Transportation Department spokesman Jill Goldberg confirmed that the International Keystone Knights of the KKK did apply to the Union County Adopt-A-Highway program on May 21. Both agencies declined to comment on the matter until a resolution was reached.

The Georgia KKK chapter is not the first such group to attempt to sponsor highway cleanup.

In Missouri, lawmakers renamed two stretches of highway for civil rights matriarch Rosa Parks and Abraham Joshua Heschel - a rabbi who narrowly escaped the Nazis in World War II and later marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. - after the state allowed a neo-Nazi group to "adopt" those sections of road.

In Kentucky, the transportation department accepted a white-separatist group's contract to participate in the state's highway cleanup program, fearing an unsuccessful legal battle.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 rejected Missouri's attempt to thwart a similar effort in that state, maintaining membership in the program cannot be denied because of a group's political beliefs.

Chambers said group members believed they had been approved for the program and were told only late last week that their application was under review. She said the International Keystone Knights were planning their first cleanup for Saturday, and may still proceed even without the Adopt-A-Highway designation.

Still, she feels the group is being discriminated against.

"It's alright for blacks or Latinos or anybody to have their own groups," she said. "It's alright for churches to adopt a highway. But if white folks stick together, we're racist."

The group's website says it requires members to be white Christians of non-Jewish descent, and to believe in the U.S. Constitution and racial segregation.

Mark Potok, senior fellow at Southern Poverty Law Center, said the effort is little more than a publicity stunt.

"I think this is simply another attempt by the Klan to somehow portray itself as a kinder, gentler group rather than the terrorist organization that it has historically been," Potok said. "On the other hand, they're very likely to win a court battle because the state agencies can issue regulations regarding things like this but they have to be neutral toward ideology."

Brooks said the Klan is not a civic-minded group, like a garden club, church or Rotary chapter.

"Those other groups don't have a history of terrorism," he said.

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Online:

http://www.dot.ga.gov


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  • by Wilhem Location: Tallahassee on Jun 14, 2012 at 02:32 PM
    to some of the commenting on here, do you really believe that comparing the NAACP and the KKK is reasonable? If so, then you are totally fooling yourselves. You have got to be the totally ignorant of history. Wow, and you claim to be superior. SMH
  • by i wonder... on Jun 14, 2012 at 01:38 PM
    ..how many african americans would go out of their way as to not travel by this road IF the KKK were able to adopt it.. Then they would cause their own scene, when its not even meant in any discremative way what so ever.
  • by Dee Location: Valdosta on Jun 14, 2012 at 05:13 AM
    FINALLY the GA DOT does something that actually makes sense!
  • by William Location: San Diego on Jun 13, 2012 at 08:11 AM
    Here we go again, it is noble to promote civic pride, but groups that advocates murder and mayhem to a race of people for the color of their skin is not civic pride. I'm sure other groups such as the Mafia,Drug Cartels, Talibans, al-Qaeda Jihadists would like the same opportunities as the KKK. They too reside here. So what make the Klans think they are better than the Drug Cartels or al-Qaeda, they hate also. They feel too, they been given unfair criticism.
  • by I bet.... on Jun 13, 2012 at 03:37 AM
    the black panthers wouldn't have any problem.
  • by Sensible Citizen on Jun 12, 2012 at 07:55 PM
    The KKK is designed to ensure the white race remains superior to any other race at any cost, they are a supremacist group, however the NAACP ensures that African Americans are afforded the same opportunities as other races not to lessen the value other races.
    • reply
      by Bull Feathers on Jun 13, 2012 at 04:38 AM in reply to Sensible Citizen
      PLEASE tell me you are not so brain damaged as to actually believe that garbage.
    • reply
      by Jim on Jun 13, 2012 at 07:54 AM in reply to Sensible Citizen
      No to the KKK. NAACP is also a hate group.
  • by DD on Jun 12, 2012 at 07:10 PM
    They'd rather get rid of the program than let the KKK use it? That's ridiculous. I seriously hate living in this state. Lets hope the black panthers don't try, and if they do they BETTER get turned down as well.
  • by watchful eye Location: tally on Jun 12, 2012 at 05:45 PM
    humph... no racist propaganda perpetuated by members of the Caucasoid persuasion?
  • by Eddie Location: Wacissa on Jun 12, 2012 at 05:23 PM
    I'm against any racist organization . However has the GA DOT allowed the NAACP to adopt any highways ? Thier title says it all . And yes they have been involved with civil unrest and violence . Now the KKK has a much more violent past than the NAACP , however they are both trying to do the same thing , promote thier race above all others .
    • reply
      by Jessica on Jun 12, 2012 at 06:34 PM in reply to Eddie
      Why is the NAACP so threatening to some? If you were to use the Black Panthers to prove your point I would agree with you. The Panthers did advocate violence. Often in response to KKK violence. The NAACP advocated non violent means and the use of the COURTS. They were the ones having dogs and fire truck hoses used on them for 'Marching'. No murders, lynching, kidnapping, or castration of white people like the KKK did to black people. The two organizations cannot be compared. Except by people who either don't care about getting history correct or wish they could go back to the 'good ole times'.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jun 13, 2012 at 06:37 AM in reply to Jessica
        You are right....it was the "good 'ole' times"
  • by aaa Location: leon on Jun 12, 2012 at 05:11 PM
    well i bet they let the NAACP DO IT.THEY ARE THE SAME. (kkk white)(naacp black) why are the naacp ok
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 13, 2012 at 06:35 AM in reply to aaa
      I was thinking the same thing. Gosh pc is going to destroy this once great nation.
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