KKK group aims to adopt highway for litter control

ATLANTA (AP) — 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.


NewsReader 3 years, 4 months ago

End the program then. We neither need, nor want, anything the KKK has to offer.


jack 3 years, 4 months ago

Trash picking up trash.........poetic justice?


FordGalaxy 3 years, 4 months ago

I'm torn on this one. I'm definitely no fan of the KKK, but if we end the program, that likely means government, in the form of the DOT, taking over efforts to clean roadsides. If the DOT was in charge of roadside cleaning, we'd get half the work done for eight times the price.

And as Jack wrote, there's something beautifully poetic about "trash picking up trash." Those jokes write themselves.


NewsReader 3 years, 4 months ago

I'm kinda leaning toward black and white striped suits with interconnecting chains picking up the trash.


FordGalaxy 3 years, 4 months ago

Personally, I would rather the people on welfare or unemployment pick up the trash. Meanwhile, have a board that assists with finding that person a better job while they pick up trash. You're getting money from the state, you ought to provide the state a service in the process. Or is that mean and possibly racist?


toby 3 years, 4 months ago

Use the Klan to get rid of lawyers not trash.


Cleanupguy 3 years, 4 months ago

Think about these guys being alongside the road, with cars wizzing by just feet away. There's a fine line between brave and stupid.


roaads1 3 years, 4 months ago

Simply make a rule that they have to wear specific clothes. I think they would look great in pink. Someone smarter than me can decide pink what. This organization has had far more shelf life than the should have. I don't like people that hate.


NewsReader 3 years, 4 months ago

I kinda like that idea. Just throw those whiteys of theirs in the wash with a very bright red shirt, and let the washer do the rest. I'd pay good money to drive along the highway and see them wearing pink KKK outfits picking up trash. That would be quite a site! LOL!


R 3 years, 4 months ago

EXTREMISTS come in all flavors.

Say what you will - but I didn't see where the Rainbow Push Coalition is stepping up…

Or the New Black Panthers - no voting stations nearby I guess…

Or Louis Farrakhan’s nation...

Just monitor the site and pull the sign down if “clean-ups” fail …


kevin 3 years, 4 months ago

what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Why do we allow back organizations and not white ones? I am not a KKK fan but is allowed for one race must be allowed for all races of people. Like it or leave it.


NewsReader 3 years, 4 months ago

Show me one location adopted by a black organization.


nd831 3 years, 4 months ago

Why is this even relevant. Why don't you prove to me that there aren't any by a black organization. I think you'll find that what you are suggesting is wrong. I think it's pretty obvious why you made such a comment.


FordGalaxy 3 years, 4 months ago

I can somewhat see the argument that Kevin and NewsReader are making. It seems acceptable to have a "Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials" or a "Congressional Black Caucus," but I'm fairly sure that if you tried to institute a "Congressional White Caucus" you'd be crucified for being racist. I've studied the history of the CBC and it's not exactly glamorous. Even in majority black districts with white representatives, the representative is not allowed in the CBC, simply because of their skin color. Steve Cohen (D-TN), who has a 60% black constituency, was denied membership because he is white. Same for Pete Stark (D-CA) way back in 1975. Concerning Rep. Cohen, William Lacy Clay, Jr. (D-MO) is quoted as saying "Mr. Cohen asked for admission, and he got his answer. He's white and the caucus is black. It's time to move on. We have racial policies to pursue and we are pursuing them, as Mr. Cohen has learned. It's an unwritten rule. It's understood."

Can you imagine the outcry if there was a Congressional White Caucus and they denied membership to a black representative, simply because he or she was not white? In 2007 Tom Tancredo (R-CO) called out the entirety of Congress for allowing things like the CBC, and both parties' Hispanic Caucuses, stating that it was "utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a color-blind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based solely on race. If we are serious about achieving the goal of a colorblind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive, race-based caucuses."


NewsReader 3 years, 4 months ago

Don't keep us in suspense. How is it so obvious?


teelee 3 years, 4 months ago

Sometimes you just have to use common sense. Certain groups do not deserve the honor of having their name on a Georgia roadside. How about groups like the Black Panthers? Taliban? Man Boy Association?



gwinnettisgreat1 3 years, 4 months ago

I imagine lots and lots of folks will be throwing their trash out on this stretch of road if they get it aproved. However, they said on the radio this morning that GDOT rejected their request.

Law suit on the way. Your tax dollars at work.


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