MoDOT gives the Ku Klux Klan the cold shoulder, but the appeal goes on

Dec 8, 1999 at 4:00 am
Missouri took its place alongside Arkansas, culturally as well as geographically, when the signs went up on Interstate 55 showing that the Ku Klux Klan had volunteered to tidy up a stretch of road. The Arkansas version of these covert Caucasians worked the same scam along U.S. Route 65 near Harrison, Ark.; in Texas, though, a federal court kept the KKK from doing so. But here in the Show-Me State, Rush Limbaugh's uncle, U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh, ruled that the whites-only club was entitled to participate in the Missouri Department of Transportation volunteer trash-pickup program.

MoDOT spokeswoman Linda Wilson says the KKK's original request for a stretch of I-55 from Gasconade to Utah, down by the Anheuser-Busch brewery, was nixed because city stretches of interstate have been deemed too dangerous. (There's one image nightmare A-B dodged: Think of the questions by tourists who come to tour the headquarters of the world's largest brewer after seeing they're in KKK country. Whoa!) So because the hooded ones asked for I-55, five stretches of road between St. Louis and Ste. Genevieve County were offered. They picked the one between 1-270 and Butler Hill Road. As part of the deal, the Klansters must pick up trash along the one-mile stretch once every three months. If they don't, Wilson says, MoDOT can toss them out of the program. Because the appeal won't be heard until mid-January and weeks might pass before a ruling is made, there's a good chance the KKK won't set foot on I-55 until all legal options have been exhausted. If and when they do, a police escort isn't promised as part of the deal. The KKK folks don't have to tell MoDOT when they're headed out; all they have to do is pick up trash bags, orange vests and a safety video. Wonder whether the safety video advises against members of a white-supremacist group walking along the roadside while cars speed by at 70 mph? The man who first asked for the signs, Michael Cuffley, is wanted for burglary, and the police can't find him. The whole flap may pass without one piece of litter being picked up. "So far we have not even been contacted by them," Wilson says. "We sent them a letter to their lawyer last Tuesday. That's our only point of contact."

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