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GDOT Denies KKK 'Adopt-a-Highway' Application

Thousands sign online petition to stop KKK plans to adopt a stretch of roadway in Union County, Ga.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) late Tuesday denied a request from the Ku Klux Klan to adopt a stretch of roadway in Union County, Ga. (about 64 miles north of Cumming).

According to a GDOT press release, the department, after consultation with Gov. Nathan Deal and the State Transportation Board Chair, denied the application.

"Maintaining the safety of our roadways is this Department’s foremost mission," the press release stated. "Encountering signage and members of the KKK along a roadway would create a definite distraction to motorists."

The GDOT also advised the section of roadway listed in the application was ineligible due to the posted limit exceeding 55 mph.

"Further, promoting an organization with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest would present a grave concern to the Department," officials added. "Finally, issuing this permit would have the potential to negatively impact the quality of life, commerce and economic development of Union County and all of Georgia."

Nioshii Wilde, an Atlanta-based visual artist and civil rights advocate, launched a petition on Change.org following reports that GDOT officials were reviewing the application, which is open to any “civic-minded group.”

That petition gained more than 1,300 signatures only a few hours after it was started on Tuesday.

After hearing the news of GDOT's decision, Wilde stated on her Web site, "I am really glad to think that the Department of Transportation listened to the residents of Georgia (and Americans everywhere) when they signed my petition asking them to reject the KKK. Every time a new person signed, an email was sent to employees at the DOT -- they told me personally they were receiving our messages!”

“I have decided to leave the petition open, in order to continue showing the DOT that the decision they made was the right one and that the people of Gestand behind them.”

But it is unlikely GDOT's denial of the application will go unchallenged and that could prove costly for the already financially strapped GDOT.

Chara Fisher Jackson, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, told 11Alive that they had received a "request for assistance" in the case, and that they are "going through the process" of investigating. It was reported that although Jackson wouldn't give specifics or whether the ACLU would get involved, she did say it was something they would look at. 11Alive also reports that Alan Begner, a veteran First Amendment attorney, believes the state would lose a legal challenge by the KKK.

According to the television news station, a legal battle over the same issue in 2005 in Missouri eventually came out on the side of the KKK. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court is reported to have ruled that maintaining membership in the program could not be denied because of the beliefs of the group.

What do you think? Will GDOT's ruling stand or will it have to reverse its decision in the face of a legal challenge? Tell us in the comments.

Hunt Archbold, Kristi Reed and Sharon Swanepoel contributed to this article.

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