KKK Chapter Wants to Adopt-a-Highway. Will Georgia Let Them?
A fascinating legal battle is brewing in Georgia over a mile-long piece of road.
The Georgia Department of Transportation is reviewing the May 21 request filed by International Keystone Knights of the KKK in Union County and are set to meet with lawyers from the state attorney general’s office today to decide what to do.
The application — which covers a one-mile stretch of Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains near the North Carolina border — has placed Georgia officials in a bind. A lengthy legal battle took place in Missouri after that state sought to ban an effort by the KKK to adopt a road there. Missouri eventually lost, with courts holding that the First Amendment prevented the state from denying an applicant because it disagreed with their viewpoint.
Georgia officials could be forced to choose between approving the application in Union County, denying it and facing a likely legal fight or sidestepping the problem by ending the state’s 23-year-old Adopt-A-Highway program, where participants volunteer to beautify state highways in exchange for road signs advertising their efforts.
The debate has caught the attention of a petitioner on Change.org who writes "I'm calling on the Georgia Department of Transportation to reject the KKK's application to adopt a highway. Terrorists have no place on the sides of our highways." This has been the message as well of civil rights groups in the state who say it's worth the legal battle for the state to take a stand against white supremacists. But the ACLU sided with the Klan in the Mississippi case, and the first Amendment may be on its side.
Harley Hanson, who filed the application and said he is the exalted cyclops of the Klan’s Realm of Georgia, said the group is simply trying to be civic minded. “We just want to clean up the doggone road,” the 34-year-old electrician from Blairsville, said in an interview with the AJC. “We’re not going to be out there in robes.”
Whether the chapter's goal is really to clean up the road, clean up their image or both, chances are there won't be too many willing to forget the group's history of racial violence and terrorism.