This announcement marks a new chapter in a years-long legal battle.
The back-and-forth began in May 2012, when the Georgia Department of Transportation denied the KKK’s petition to “adopt” a one-mile stretch of highway through the Appalachian Mountains. While KKK leadership viewed the rejection as a violation of their constitutional rights, the state was skeptical.
In a letter explaining its decision, the DOT wrote that “erecting a sign naming an organization which as a long rooted history of civil disturbance would cause a significant public concern.”
The ACLU filed a lawsuit on the KKK’s behalf in Fulton County Superior Court in September 2012, arguing that the “Adopt-a-Highway” program’s criteria for participation was “unconstitutionally vague” and did in fact violate freedom of speech.
After a judge ruled in the KKK’s favor, the state of Georgia appealed. The state’s Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case this summer but said it doesn’t have jurisdiction over it.
Back when the KKK's petition was first filed, TPM spoke with Harley Hanson, the Grand Cyclops of the Georgia group. He insisted the group’s only motivation was cleaning up the state's roadways.
"The stretch of road is up in the mountains, there's a lot of beautiful streams and scenery, and we just wanted to help keep that one-mile stretch clean," he said. "It gives our members something to do every other month or so. Get out there and keep the roads clean."
According to the Georgia DOT’s website, the “Adopt-a-Highway” program's "policies and procedures" are currently being updated. It’s not accepting any new participants at this time.