Published June 11, 2012
The Ku Klux Klan wants to adopt a stretch of highway in northern Georgia to clean up litter, which could force a legal showdown with state officials who may not want the white supremacy group's help — not to mention a roadside sign announcing it.
Harley Hanson, the "exalted cyclops" of the Klan's "Realm of Georgia," filed the application to adopt a one-mile stretch of Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains, near the North Carolina border, on behalf of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK in Union County. Under the Adopt-A-Highway program, private individuals or organizations pledge to help keep a stretch of road clean, and their participation is heralded by a sign. In this case, the sign would read: “IKK Realm of GA, Ku Klux Klan.”
“All we want to do is adopt this piece of road and clean it,” Hanson told FoxNews.com by phone. “We’re not doing this for a membership drive; we’ve got all the members we want. And we’ve got intentions to do it more than four times per year.”
The May 21 request is now being considered by the state’s Department of Transportation. If approved, the group would remove debris at least four times a year for a two-year period along the highway in Blairsville, Ga.
David Spear, press secretary for the Georgia Department of Transportation, confirmed the application but declined additional comment until a resolution is determined. DOT officials are scheduled to meet with attorneys from the state attorney general’s office on Monday to decide how to proceed, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
At least one elected official has called on the state to reject the application from a “domestic terrorist group” despite the potential for a costly legal fight.
"It should be denied just as we would deny the request from any other hate group," state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, head of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, told FoxNews.com. "The fact that they would consider an application from the Ku Klux Klan is offensive. You may have to let Al Qaeda or some other group do it, and I would hope our lawyers and the attorney general's office say, 'You know what, we’ll fight this out.'"
The case is similar to one in Missouri. A lengthy legal battle took place in that state when it sought ban an effort by the KKK to adopt a road there. Missouri eventually lost, with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2005 that maintaining membership in the program cannot be denied because of a group's political beliefs, The Associated Press reports.
Hanson, who is aware of the legal precedent in the matter, said he expects the request to be approved.
“We don’t want to do any kind of litigation or make it into some big legal battle,” he said. “The state is strapped for cash now anyway, so to drag both parties into litigation over a program about a highway in the mountains of north Georgia is absolutely frivolous. It’s pointless.”
The application — which was first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and obtained by FoxNews.com — lists Hanson and his wife as the primary contacts and indicates the group plans to average at least six workers per cleanup if approved. Hanson declined to discuss how many members his group represents.
“We’ll have at least six at every cleanup, no more than 10,” the 34-year-old electrician said. “It’s a very secluded type of road and it gives our members something to do; [it’s] just another activity that we can do.”
Georgia officials could be forced to choose between approving the application, denying it and facing a likely legal fight or ending the state’s 23-year-old Adopt-A-Highway program, according to the newspaper.
Blairsville Mayor Jim Conley declined to comment early Monday when reached by FoxNews.com.
Hanson said the effort is just another way for the group to assist the community.
“There’s a misconception of what the Klan does,” Hanson said. “We’re not out here putting crosses in people’s front yards. We simply promote our race. I love the white race, I love my race.”