A group of around 30 demonstrators, including the town’s mayor, gathered Friday morning in Harrison, Ark. to rally against a billboard with a white separatist message.
The billboard reads, “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White.” It went up Tuesday night along Interstate 62-65 in Harrison and it wasn’t long before the city issued a statement, denouncing the message.
“While the clients that are responsible for the sign are exercising their freedom of speech, the mayor’s office considers the content inflammatory, distasteful and not in line with the truth on how Harrison is a city of welcoming and tolerant citizens,” the mayor’s office said in a statement released Wednesday morning.
“The owners of the signage, who I am unaware of, and the owners of the structure, which I understand is the Harrison Sign Co., should be ashamed to display such antiquated ideology and hatred that adversely affects Harrison as a whole," the statement continued.
Mayor Jeff Crockett was among the group of demonstrators Friday, while two men, one of them holding a sign that read “White People 4 Free Speech,” showed up in support of the sign.
ESPN Radio, which had an advertisement on an adjacent panel, asked to have its own ad removed, Raw Story reports.
Claude West, owner of Harrison Sign Co., said regardless of someone’s opinion, he believes they have a right to express it.
The man who’s renting the sign asked to remain anonymous, but he admitted in a statement issued through Harrison Sign Co. the message was meant to be political:
“Often white people are called racist for opposing the President’s policies. On the other hand, a non-white person was never called racist for opposing President’s Bush’s policies. There is a double standard in this country regarding differences of opinion. Those differences of opinion do not make a person racist. The first amendment right to freedom of speech is for everyone. That is the point of the message.”
The man who rented the billboard signed a year contract with Harrison Signs to keep the board up, according to Arkansas Matters.
The same slogan was posted on a banner hung on a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 5 last month near Eugene, Oregon. It was later removed by the Oregon Department of Transportation because it was deemed a distraction to drivers.
The Arkansas town’s chamber of commerce and a community task force on race relations are considering a “love thy neighbor” campaign in response to the billboard and its message.
Sources: Arkansas Matters, Raw Story, KARK-4