A half-mile stretch of highway adopted by a neo-Nazi group now bears a rabbi’s name.
The National Socialist Movement of Springfield, MO recently adopted a stretch of highway near their hometown. The adoption failed to attract much attention until the neo-Nazis cleaned the roadway wearing swastikas and clutching white pride flags, and photographing themselves beneath their signage. The only requirement to adopt a road and erect a sign is that each participating group clean their section of highway four times a year.
Rep. Sara Lampe (D-Springfield) found a clever way to fight back. She slipped an amendment into a recent transportation bill that renamed the NSM’s section of the highway, the “Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel Memorial Highway.” Now the neo-Nazi group must keep Rabbi Heschel’s highway spotless. An independent Jewish group in Kansas City will pay for additional signs along the road proclaiming the highway’s new name.
Missouri has a history of resistance towards giving white supremacist groups pieces of highway. In 2000, the Ku Klux Klan applied for membership to the Adopt-A-Highway Program, and the state rejected their application outright. The Klan brought the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. Since then, similar cases have been brought to court, and the courts have consistently ruled in the name of free speech. Rep. Lampe boldy fought the group’s sign with a sign of her own. As the late great Rabbi Heschel himself said: “Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts out as a sound, ends in a deed.”