KKK’s request to burn cross on Stone Mountain denied

2:18 p.m Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017 DeKalb County
Ben Gray/AJC
Joseph Andrews, one of a small group with the Rock Stone Mountain rally, waves a confederate battle flag towards a mass of counter-protesters more than 100 yards away at Stone Mountain Park on Saturday afternoon April 23, 2016 where a white power protest and two counter protests were scheduled. 

The Stone Mountain Memorial Association this week denied a Ku Klux Klan request to burn a cross at the park, citing the trouble at a “pro-white” rally last year.

Joey Hobbs, a Dublin man with the Sacred Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, wanted to hold a “lighting” ceremony on Oct. 21 with 20 participants, according to the application. This would’ve been to commemorate the KKK’s 1915 revival, which began with a flaming cross atop Stone Mountain on the evening of Thanksgiving.

“We will light our cross and 20 minutes later we will be gone,” wrote Hobbs, who couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday, in an application dated May 26. It wasn’t immediately clear if Hobbs holds a formal position with the group.

“We don’t want any of these groups at the park, quite frankly,” John Bankhead, spokesman for the association said Wednesday, referring to white nationalists groups and the KKK. “This is a family-oriented park.” 

But since it’s a public park, the association created a permit process to consider each application individually.

An application to burn a cross at Stone Mountain Park was denied this week.

In a statement, the memorial group, which oversees the park, said 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.”

Writing to deny Hobbs, CEO Bill Stephens cited the trouble at the “Rock Stone Mountain” rally of April 23, 2016. The park had to close that day as white power revelers, including KKK members, clashed with counter-protesters.

Stephens said an event like Hobbs’ would require public safety resources beyond what park police could provide, and thus, would put guests, employees and public safety workers in danger. 

Besides creating a potentially-dangerous scene, the cross-burning would’ve also been an act of intimidation, Bankhead said.

“I think anybody who knows about cross burning knows why it’s used,” Bankhead said, recalling the KKK’s track record of setting crosses on fire to intimidate African Americans. “We’re just not going to allow that.”

Georgia's terroristic threats and acts statute also specifically bars the practice when it’s done with the intent to “terrorize.” The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that states can ban cross-burning, though it warned that the intent to intimidate must be proven in each case.

Whatever Hobbs’ intent, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association CEO said the event would violate its ordinances against disruptions to the park and actions that present a “clear and present danger.”

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Channel 2's Audrey Washington reports.
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