The American Civil Liberties Union – often seen as a staunch defender of liberal civil rights cases – announced on Tuesday they are coming to the rescue of a local Ku Klux Klan chapter in their effort to "adopt" a portion of a Georgia highway.
What may be seen as an unlikely union began two weeks ago when the Georgia Department of Transportation turned down a May 21 application by KKK leader Harley Hanson to support the clean-up efforts of a state highway in Union County.
Civil and educational groups, along with individuals, oftentimes "adopt" a portion of a highway, promising to occasionally pick up litter along the roadside.
Hanson, who filed the application along with his wife, lives in Fannin County, which borders the stretch of highway in Union County that the group offered to adopt. The local chapter of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK said at least six volunteers would be available for roadside clean-up but it is not clear how many members the KKK group has.
When contacted by a Georgia newspaper, Hanson refused to provide such information.
"We don't know why they picked Union County," County Commissioner Lamar Paris told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "They could have easily chosen the last mile of Fannin County as opposed to the first mile in Union County."
However, Debbie Seagraves, who heads up the ACLU's Georgia office, says she is not sure the location of the highway chosen is the issue. "It has not been a matter of discussion as far as I am concerned," Seagraves told the AJC. Instead, she says the ACLU considers this a First Amendment issue, but they refused to discuss the case in any detail.
"Yes, we are representing them, but we are still working on the strategy," she said.
The Georgia Department of Transportation said the primary reason for rejecting the KKK's application was their history of violence against blacks and other minority groups, and that program formed to help maintain the state's roadsides was available only to "civic-minded organizations in good standing."
However, Commissioner Paris maintained that the county does not need or want the assistance of the KKK group from their neighboring county.
"We have a great county and a good infrastructure. We don't need a controversy from a group who is claiming to want to pick up our trash. We are fully capable of picking up our own trash."