Georgia Lawmaker Defends KKK: “It Made a Lot of People Straighten Up”

David Goldman/AP

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A Georgia state representative has triggered anger on social media after he made several statements that appear to defend the actions of the Ku Klux Klan, a group he insists “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order.”

“It made a lot of people straighten up,” Republican State Rep. Tommy Benton said, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “I’m not saying what they did was right. It’s just the way things were.”

Benton’s remarks come after he introduced a bill on Wednesday to amend the state’s constitution in order to protect Confederate monuments from being removed or edited at Stone Mountain, which currently depicts the images of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.

“A great majority of prominent men in the South were members of the Klan,” he said in reference to the bill. “Should that affect their reputation to the extent that everything else good that they did was forgotten?”

Since the deadly shooting inside historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina last year, calls to remove southern symbols bearing the Confederate flag and celebrating its racist heritage have been renewed with some success.

Benton also referred to another bill that attempted to prohibit the celebration of holidays that honor Confederate leaders, and compared these efforts to the terrorist activities of ISIS.

“That’s no better than what ISIS is doing, destroying museums and monuments,” he said. “I feel very strongly about this. I think it has gone far enough. There is some idea out there that certain parts of history out there don’t matter anymore and that’s a bunch of bunk.”

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In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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