KKK highway cleanup

Free speech or aiding terrorists?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has decided to represent the Ku Klux Klan in its battle with the state to join the transportation department’s highway cleanup program. The International Keystone Knights of the KKK applied to clean up part of Ga. 515 in Union County, a stretch in the North Georgia mountains that would be marked with a sign declaring the group’s participation. Today’s guest writers have their say on the issue.

Rick Badie is today’s moderator. Commenting is open following Tyrone Brooks’ column below.

By Debbie Seagraves

In 1976, the National Socialist Party of America applied for a permit to march in the village of Skokie, Ill., home to many Jews, including Holocaust survivors. Skokie leaders replied that the neo-Nazi group would be required to post a bond of $350,000, an impossible and unconstitutional requirement.

A long and bitter court battle ensued, and the result was a series of decisions that defined our current understanding of freedom of speech.

What many people don’t know is that even though the group won the legal battle, it never marched in Skokie. Many assert the incident sparked the creation of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois.

More recently, the Missouri Highway Transportation Commission refused to grant the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan the right to participate in Missouri’s Adopt-A-Highway program.

Another long and costly series of court battles ended with essentially the same results as the Skokie case.

The opinion of the federal court in this case states: “As lacking as the Klansman’s ideology may be of any redeeming social, intellectual or spiritual value, the Constitution of the United States protects his right to express that ideology as freely as one whose views society embraces.”

It has been firmly established by every level of court that offensive speech and ideas enjoy the protection of the First Amendment.

Indeed, it is only offensive speech and ideas that need protection of the First Amendment.

So now the International Keystone Knights have applied to adopt a stretch of highway in Union County, and it appears that the Georgia Department of Transportation is denying the group permission because its viewpoint is objectionable.

GDOT has suspended the program for stated reasons that have already been ruled unconstitutional by many courts.

It almost seems it is inviting litigation so it can blame the courts when it is finally forced to do the thing that is constitutional but opposed by so many.

Perhaps the most egregious implied justification for denial was a fear that public safety would be jeopardized because other people might misbehave, a “hecklers veto.” This is a transparent way of saying our government condones the bad behavior of those who hate and that the First Amendment may be held hostage by bullies.

It is often difficult to separate the issue from the people involved.

To most of us, the Klan’s message is a uniquely offensive one, and we have the right to speak out about our objections to its philosophy and viewpoint.

Are you willing to cede that freedom to your government?

Is it OK with you for elected officials to have the right to silence those who question their decisions, those who work to hold them accountable through public discourse?

If you ask yourself those questions, I hope you will agree that this debate is really not about the Klan, but rather about how much freedom we are willing to give away in order not to be offended.

U.S. District Court Judge Bernard M. Decker summed up the principles at stake in the Skokie decision:

“It is better to allow those who preach racial hatred to expend their venom in rhetoric rather than to be panicked into embarking on the dangerous course of permitting the government to decide what its citizens may say and hear. … The ability of American society to tolerate the advocacy of even hateful doctrines … is perhaps the best protection we have against the establishment of any Nazi-type regime in this country.”

By Tyrone Brooks

The Ku Klux Klan is a terrorist organization. The group is among the founders of organized domestic terrorism in the United States. No matter how it tries to change and rebrand its image and rewrite history, the blood stains will remain.

Georgia is correct in denying the application of the International Keystone Knights of the KKK to participate in the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program in Union County.

It is outrageous the group was ever under consideration. This program is for “civic-minded organizations” that build up the community, not hate-filled terrorist groups seeking its destruction.

As a proud American, a lifelong Georgian, civil rights activist and president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials (a nonpartisan, multiracial, multicultural organization), I am a strong supporter and believer in our U.S. Constitution. I am a firm believer in the First Amendment, which guarantees us “freedom of religion, speech, and the press; rights of assembly and petition.”

I support the right of the KKK to clean up highways, and its members can call me any name under the sun, moon and stars in the process.

I do not support it being legitimized by the state of Georgia and having the name of this heinous organization placed on our public highways and supported by the tax dollars of our residents.

If it is sincerely interested in cleaning highways, then it should not matter whether it gets name recognition for doing so.

Organizations defending the KKK should consider using resources to help us in the fight against voter intimidation and suppression.

The KKK’s murderous, terroristic roots run deep throughout the South and this nation. Established at the end of the Civil War, the hooded cowards of the KKK tried to instill fear in formerly enslaved people.

Its ideology and philosophy are treasonous. If it could, it would abolish the United States in favor of the Confederate states.

The KKK is responsible for mass murder, church bombings and burnings, lynchings, and the destruction of numerous homes and businesses.

I authored an anti-terrorism law signed in 1983, which created the anti-terrorism squad of the GBI to target violence by hate groups.

It amazes me that anyone would dare to compare the KKK — founded to kill, maim, intimidate and suppress people — to multiracial, multicultural, civil rights organizations established to work for equal rights, freedom and justice for all people.

What ignorance would prevent someone from understanding the difference?

Many of my colleagues and friends (black and white) have been killed by members of the KKK for standing up for our God-given, human rights and the rights of others.

Unborn babies, children, young people, mothers and fathers have all been victims of its venomous cruelty and hatred.

The KKK is equivalent to al-Qaida, the Taliban and neo-Nazis. Should it be allowed to place its name on our public roads and highways? Should these groups be allowed to adopt Ground Zero in New York?

For a history lesson in heinous KKK genocidal violence, join us at noon July 28 at the First African Baptist Church in Monroe for the annual reenactment of the lynchings at the Moore’s Ford Bridge.

When you join an organization and work under the banner of its name, you are accepting and condoning its history. The KKK will never clean up its image or remove the blood of innocent victims forever staining its hands.

33 comments Add your comment

nelson

July 6th, 2012
9:39 am

The issue is, do you want the highway cleaned up or do you not? That is the question, is it more noble if only people of impecable character are cleaning up the highways or will any one that wants to do the job ok.
I have always gotten a kick out of the chain gangs cleaning up the debris along the road. I never have seen a chain gang in the north. They have state crews do it and now volunteers.
The south has tradition, sharecropper shacks, old gas stations. Georgia has to promote their heritage, even those old outhouses, got to go with the flow.

Gerda Law

July 6th, 2012
9:36 am

When I first moved to Indianapolis in 1997, I was leary of the city/state because of its past involvement with the KKK. That summer the KKK announced that they would hold a parade and rally downtown, at first many were sickend by the idea, repulsed that such people also enjoyed our freedoms and rights. But how the Governor, local gorvernments and the people of Indiana handled the situation was so powerful it overshadowed anything and everything the KKK stood for. The Governor invited the citizens to come to Indinapolis and bring their families! He opened up all the museums downtown at no cost, including the Childrens Museum! There were activities throughout the city for families to enjoy, it was amazing!! The outcome was that there were less than a handful of supporters during the rally, the KKK were left by themselves, screaming into the bullhorns while no body listened. BRAVO Indiana, well handled. BRAVO Hoosiers, keeping your cool inattention drove the unwanted guests back to thier wood pile not to be heard of again!!!

Old School Girl

July 6th, 2012
9:02 am

Be aware. Groups like this, want to make their way back into society for their own evil purpose. Once we all feel ‘comfortable’, with their presence, then they have a pass to do other things, that you don’t like…Isn’t that the way criminals, rapist, murders, pedophiles, and terriorists work? They know that Americans have a short memory, and Georgia has a long history of racism. The KKK will do some good work for a while, and people will say “Oh they are harmless.” All the while they will be up there recruiting on the downlow, and before you know it, they will be a majority.

Northerner

July 6th, 2012
8:30 am

I say let them clean the highways! Just don’t let them put the name “KKK” on a highway sign because of what they have represented throughout history. If they are really about keeping our highways clean, let them! Heck, I ‘d thank them! If they refuse to clean up because they can’t promote their garbage, then we’ll know what it’s really all about. Seems simple………….and how did the Black Panthers become a part of this discussion? Were they trying to adopt a highway? I’m not trying to be funny, I’m wondering if their is something I’m missing. It seems like any time a white supremacist group gets press, you find people who want to start yelling about the Black Panthers. I think it’s comical becuase the BP was founded to protect their community from violence and racial injustices. The KKK was founded solely to intimidate and terrorize so there is a difference.

DeborahinAthens

July 6th, 2012
7:24 am

We have already lost too any rights and freedoms to the politically correct. Last time I looked it is a free country. It would make Tyrone’s blood run cold, but the greatest testimonial to how great our freedoms are, would be a Fourth of July parade ths not only featured the veterans, but also the neo-nazis and KKK. The way dictators worm their way into power is by silencing those they disagree with. So, is Tyrone saying that, should I dissent from his narrow world view, I have no rights? This is the very thing that makes me hate the Tea Partiers and religious Bible thumpers. I might hate what someone says, but I will pay money to the ACLU to defend their right to say it.

henry h

July 6th, 2012
7:21 am

if the KKK wants to keep fighting this in court, let them. they can spend their money fighting it. I’m bitterly disappointed that the ACLU is helping them. Other states have decided not to allow such participation and recognition because it would be a distraction and disincentive. People may actually litter in a big way if they see that sign. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea, i’d bet alot of people would be out there with their iphones and cameras to see the KKK members unmasked, doing menial labor.

SMH

July 6th, 2012
7:17 am

The GDOT needs better guidelines to prevent this type of situation from occuring. It’s good they suspended the program … the way it’s setup now any terrorist organization can get a sign to promote their cause at taxpayer expense. If the klan wants to advertise then let them do so at their own expense.

Who Cares?

July 6th, 2012
12:19 am

OK, so you don’t want the KKK to contribute to society. Then, how about this idea. Lets get all of the thugs in in the prison system in this state to clean up the roads. There shouldn’t be a cigarette butt or a gum wrapper on our roadways, and there wouldn’t be one of either if we’d put those who have taken from our society and had them cleaning our roadways. We as tax payers spend money to keep the incarcerated thugs housed, healthy, and fed. Why can’t they give the state and its citizens something back? Somebody has to keep the roadways picked up. If not the KKK, then let it be the thugs.

rooster

July 5th, 2012
11:24 pm

The Ku Kluxers should not be allowed to adopt a highway. Everyone knows what they want out of this, and everyone knows who they are. The ACLU is wrong about this. They were also wrong about Skokie, and they convinced the court to join them in their error. The Nazis demonstrating in Skokie weren’t interested in exersizing their free speech rights. They were interested in giving emotional injury to innocent people in a heavily Jewish suburban town. And adopting a highway is not speech, nor is it an assembly to petition the government for redress of grievances. It is an attempt by an historically violent and terroristic organization to use a community improvement program to promote itself.

native

July 5th, 2012
10:14 pm

By all means let them do it. When only acceptable speech is free none is.

Besides, I’d like to see them out there in their robes in August.