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Mo. Bill Would Rename Highway

February 8, 2000

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ An attempt by a state lawmaker to rename a stretch of Ku Klux Klan-sponsored highway for civil rights icon Rosa Parks doesn’t bother the Klan, the group’s national director said Tuesday.

``If they think that’s going to cause us to lose sleep, moan or groan, they’re mistaken. It’s another attempt to kick our white, Christian heritage in the face,″ Thomas Robb said from Harrison, Ark.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Clay Jr., who is black, would rename the Klan’s adopted stretch of Interstate 55 south of downtown St. Louis the Rosa Parks Highway. He told the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday that the Klan’s participation in the highway program is an embarrassment.

Renaming the highway is ``a wonderful way to respond to what had been a very negative situation,″ he said. ``It would be good for the Klan to act as a cleanup crew for the Rosa Parks Highway.″

Parks’ refusal to yield her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus in 1955 was a turning point in the civil rights movement.

The committee did not vote on the bill because not enough members attended the hearing.

The Klan, which was not represented at the hearing, won the right to participate in the highway program last fall after years of fighting the Department of Transportation in court. A federal appeals judge, citing the First Amendment, ruled in November that the state can’t bar the Klan from participating.

Last month, the state issued the Klan an ultimatum to start picking up trash or face being dropped from the program. Last week, a Klan representative picked up bags, reflective vests and a 10-minute safety video required for program participation.

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