Report: KKK Adopt-a-Highway application denied in Georgia

3:37 PM, Jun 12, 2012   |    comments
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Update: According to CNN, the application by a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan to adopt a section of Georgia Highway 515 in north Georgia has been denied by the Georgia Department of Transportation. 

In late May, the International Keystone Knights of the KKK submitted an application to GDOT to adopt a mile of the highway near Blairsville. Organizations that are approved to adopt a section of roadway, promise to help keep that portion of highway clean.

In exchange, GDOT officials will place a sign along the section of roadway noting what organization has adopted that section of highway.

A similar application several years ago in Missouri, resulted in a Supreme Court decision in favor of the KKK being permitted to adopt a highway. The decision noted that the state could not prohibit participation because of a group's political beliefs.

Earlier Report:

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. (WXIA) -- Several signs at the city limits of the small North Georgia town of Blairsville show how proud it is of its scenic location at the bottom foothills of the Appalachian Mountains near the North Carolina line.

They also show how proud the city is of its reputation as a tourist and retirement attraction.

But many in that town and in Union County are not proud to learn that the Ku Klux Klan wants an official state sponsored sign of its own put up on Highway 515.

Some local members of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK have put in an application with the Georgia Department of Transportation for an Adopt-a-Highway sign, promising to keep a one mile stretch of the highway clean and beautiful.

One of those Klan applicants, April Chambers of Blairsville, told 11Alive News they would do a television interview about their request on Monday.

But even before we arrived, she called back to say they had been advised not to do an interview in case the matter ends up in court.

Chambers added that they might do an interview if 11Alive donated some money to the Klan, but we informed her we don't pay for news stories...from anyone.

While those Klan members aren't talking, we found plenty of people in Blairsville who were surprised to hear of the KKK application.

"The message is still that the KKK is still alive and active up here, which I would hope it's not," said resident Christina Joyce.

"I don't know if it is for sure or not, but I don't like the message that is sends," she added.

"I don't think there's anything they can do about it or anything they should do about it," said resident Jeremy Hooper.

"I mean, it's free speech, free country; if they want to do it, let 'em do it," he added.

"It's not my choice to say if it's someone's right to have it or not, but technically if it were my choice, I would say, 'no'," said resident Karyn Harkins.

The Klan's Adopt-a-Highway application puts the state in a bit of a pickle.

If they deny it, the Klan is threatening to sue like they did in Missouri, where the courts upheld their right to participate in that state's Adopt-a-Highway program.

Another possibility is for the DOT to do away with the 23-year-old program, which helps state and local governments save millions of dollars keeping highways clean.

Top Georgia DOT officials met privately Monday with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, the state's top lawyer, to discuss the controversy.

DOT spokesperson Jill Goldberg told 11Alive News no decision has been made yet.

"The Department continues to work through its usual process of reviewing the application," she wrote us.  "We will keep you advised as that review progresses."

In 2005, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling was tied to a similar application by a Klan group in Missouri. The ruling said membership in that state's Adopt-A-Highway program could not be denied because of a group's political beliefs. In Missouri, the state is only permitted to deny an organization's application if it has members who have been convicted of a violent crime within the past 10 years.

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