The Ku Klux Klan was denied a permit to hold a cross burning at a Georgia public park venerated by the white supremacist group over fears the event may lead to violence.
In his permit application to Stone Mountain Park, Sacred Knights of the Ku Klux Klan member Joey Hobbs sought to hold the event in October atop the mountain in order “to commemorate the fact that the first KKK cross lighting was actually held on Stone Mountain in 1915.”
The Stone Mountain Memorial Association denied his request, saying it “condemns the beliefs and actions of the Ku Klux Klan and believes the denial of this Public Assembly request is in the best interest of all parties.”
In his reply to Hobbs, Stone Mount Memorial Association CEO Bill Stephens cited an event held by the KKK at the site in April 2016 that led to clashes between the white supremacists and counter protesters, saying the park did not have enough resources to prevent a repeat of last year’s violence, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A spokesman for the association said that in addition to fears of violence, the cross burning would have also been “an act of intimidation.”
“It’s one thing to have placards and voice your opinion about something. It’s another thing to take the action of burning a cross,” he told the local CBS affiliate.
Following the denial of his request, Hobbes said that the rejection of his application was a violation of his First Amendment rights.
“As long as we’re not out here killing anybody, making threats to anybody, then what we do is our business,” he said.
Hobbes told the local CBS affiliate that while he understood many people would be offended by the historic connotations of the event, “that goes back to misrepresentations of Klan throughout history.”
He also said that any violence would not have been instigated by his group.
“If a riot would have ensued, I guarantee it wouldn’t have been because of my men coming to start a riot,” he said. “Our group has never tried to intimidate anybody…that’s now what we’re about.”
Despite the rejection of his permit, Hobbes said he still plans to go ahead with the cross burning on private property.
In addition to being the site of the second founding of the white supremacist group, Stone Mountain also bears a large relief carved into the rock of leading Confederate figures Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
While the KKK has remained active despite no longer retaining the widespread influenced it retained at its peak in the 1920s, the group has received renewed attention following the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the outspoken support of its former leader David Duke for US President Donald Trump.