State transportation officials have denied an application submitted by the KKK for the Adopt-a-Highway program, due to safety concerns.
The denial letter states: "The impact of erecting a sign naming an organization which has a long rooted history of civil disturbance would cause a significant public concern. Impacts include safety of the traveling public, potential social unrest, driver distraction, or interference with the flow of traffic."
The Ku Klux Klan was at its most powerful in the 1920’s with more than 4 million members. Now classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the white supremacist organization has splintered into smaller chapters with around 4-5,000 members—holding very little of the political power it wielded in its heyday.
Mark Potok with the SPLC has been following Klan activity for 15 years. He says KKK factions have been trying to use the Adopt-a-Highway program to paint themselves as do-gooders for over a decade.
“This whole thing is a fraud. This is a publicity stunt being carried out by the Klan to present itself as a kinder, gentler organization. I can think of one case on one day in which a Klan organization actually went out and picked up bottles on the side of the road and the reason they did it that day was because they were accompanied by a documentary crew and they wanted to look good on TV.”
The International Keystone Knights of the KKK who wanted to adopt a stretch of Route 515 in Union County have said they “just want to clean up the road.”
Backlash began immediately over their attempt to “adopt” a stretch of north Georgia highway.
More than a thousand people joined an online campaign to call on the state Department of Transportation to deny the application.
The KKK members in Union county have said they are simply trying to be “civic minded.”
But Union County Commissioner, Lamar Paris, says the sign would be on the state border—and would not be sending a positive message to tourists entering the state:
“We’re a tourism community primarily, I just don’t think a very good thing to show the world that you’re supporting or being a part of. We’ve got lots of county roads to sign up to work on, but the actual entrance to our county, I just don’t think it’s an appropriate thing.”
A legal battle took place in Missouri 2001 when the state tried to block the Klan from adopting a road there. The US Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prevented the state from denying an applicant because it disagreed with their viewpoint.