"We're doing it to keep the mountains beautiful," Ku Klux Klan group official says
The group has applied to the Georgia Department of Transportation
State officials are scheduled to discuss the matter Monday
If approved, the KKK would clean part of Georgia State Route 515
A North Georgia chapter of the Ku Klux Klan has applied to “adopt” a stretch of highway in Union County, Georgia, according to paperwork obtained by CNN on Monday.
The application, which would allow the white supremacy group to receive state recognition for cleaning up a one-mile portion of a highway, was filed by the International Keystone Knights of the KKK on May 21.
If the Georgia Department of Transportation accepts the application, the KKK would be responsible for cleaning litter on a part of Georgia State Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains near the North Carolina border.
“All we want to do is adopt a highway,” said April Chambers, the chapter’s secretary. “We’re not doing it for publicity. We’re doing it to keep the mountains beautiful. People throwing trash out on the side of the road … that ain’t right.”
Jill Goldberg, a Georgia DOT spokeswoman, confirmed the application but said, “the department is deferring comment beyond that, however, until a resolution is determined.”
DOT officials will discuss the matter Monday with representatives from the state attorney general’s office, she said.
Chambers told CNN she didn’t know anything about that meeting but said the group is supposed to meet with the DOT at some point. State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, has been working against the group’s adoption application, she said.
“We’re not racists,” Chambers said Monday. “We just want to be with white people. If that’s a crime, then I don’t know. It’s all right to be black and Latino and proud, but you can’t be white and proud. I don’t understand it.”
A similar request in Missouri set off a legal battle that stretched for years and went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. A Ku Klux Klan chapter sought to adopt a portion of Interstate 55. A federal appeals court ruled the state could not bar the KKK from participating in the program, and the high court declined to review the case, letting that ruling stand.
However, the Missouri Department of Transportation eventually kicked the KKK out of the program because members were not picking up trash as agreed, spokesman Bob Brendel said Monday. The state also named the stretch of I-55 after civil rights activist Rosa Parks, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Georgia has been participating in the Adopt-A-Highway program for more than 20 years. The program provides advertising for sponsors who agree to clean a stretch of road on a sign posted along the stretch.
“Any civic-minded organization, business, individual, family, city, county, state, or federal agency is welcome to volunteer in the Georgia Adopt-A-Highway program,” the DOT website says.
There is no charge to sponsors, Goldberg said. “We provide the safety vest and materials to collect the trash. We provide what’s needed to do the program … their contribution is the labor.”
Chambers said the group is more than 100 strong. “We have a lot of support,” she said.
“I don’t see why we can’t (adopt the stretch of highway),” she said. “Would it be any different if it was the Black Panthers or something? Someone always has some kind of race card.”
On its website, the International Keystone Knights of the KKK says it is “fed up with the Federal tyranny and oppression of Reconstruction, and the time was ripe for Clandestine Armed Resistance.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, lists the KKK as “the most infamous – and oldest – of American hate groups.”
“Over the years since it was formed in December 1865, the Klan has typically seen itself as a Christian organization, although in modern times Klan groups are motivated by a variety of theological and political ideologies,” the law center’s website says.
“We’re not a hate group,” Chambers insisted Monday. “We don’t hate anybody. We’re just white people that want to stick with white people. The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) wants to stick with black people. Just because I’m white, I can’t stick with my own group?”
CNN’s Bill Mears and Ashley Hayes contributed to this report.