Do extreme politics and litter mix ?

There has been a fascinating case reported from the US state of Georgia involving an attempt by the Ku Klux Klan to adopt a section of highway and keep it clear of litter (or “trash”, as our American cousins call it).

For those of you unfamiliar with the idea, the Adopt-a-Highway concept involves a local group or business taking over responsibility for keeping an area of road free of litter. In return, the local County places signs along the appropriate stretch of road acknowledging the contribution that that particular group or business is making.

But when the International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan applied to adopt a one-mile stretch of Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains in Union County, North Georgia, the Georgia Department of Transportation rejected the application. The reasons for its rejection were several and quite interesting :

First, it pointed out that the Adopt-a-Highway Program was designed to allow civic-minded organisations in good standing to provide this valuable public service

Second, it said that participation in the program should not detract from its worthwhile purpose.

Third, the Department said that maintaining the safety of the roadways was the Department’s foremost mission – encouraging signage and the presence of KKK members along the roadway would create a definite distraction to motorists.

Fourth, it stated that the relevant section of roadway was ineligible for adoption due to its speed limit exceeding the Adopt-a-Highway maximum allowable 55 mph.

Fifth, promoting an organisation with a history of inciting civil disturbance and social unrest would present “a grave concern to the Department”.

Sixth, issuing the permit for this project would have the potential “to negatively impact the quality of life, commerce and economic development of Union County and all of Georgia”.

Phew ! The phrase “protesting too much” springs to mind with such a long and varied list of reasons for rejection. And, apparently, Harley Hanson, the “exalted cyclops of the KKK Realm of Georgia” has threatened to file a lawsuit if the application is rejected. The latest news, as I type this, is that the civil rights group ACLU (the American Civil Liberties Union) will help the KKK put its case in court.

Of a couple of local residents interviewed about the issue, one said that he didn’t want his children to see the KKK signs and a reversion to the times of powerful KKK influence while another said that they thought that there was no reason why people’s beliefs should stop them picking up litter.

You may think that this is a distant problem, that things are different in America and that this sort of episode would never happen over here. Well, I’m not so sure about that. I have recently heard about the controversy caused by the setting up of a volunteer litter group by a member of the British National Party. That too has polarised local opinion – some people think that it’s fine and that the good effects outweigh any political connections while others feel that it is simply a covert way of the BNP getting its ideas across and building its influence. And, of course, we should remember that both the Ku Klux Klan in America and the BNP in the UK are legitimate organisations.

So – what do you think about this ? Should we be objecting to public works by organisations that some people view as having extreme views or should we put that aside and simply appreciate the contribution that they are making to the common good ? Please leave your comments below !

Leave a Reply