A protest was held Thursday afternoon in Harrison in response to a billboard that was put up on highway 62/65. The message on the sign read: “Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White.”
The sign sparked an immediate response from people in the community and according to Claude West, owner of Harrison Sign Company, has prompted phone calls from around the country.
According to reports, West says a man leased the billboard about three weeks ago and said the statement referred to the government. The man said anyone who complains about the government is called racist, apparently referring to the fact that President Obama is black.
West reportedly said he didn’t see anything wrong with the statement. He said people, including the many who leased the billboard, have a right to free speech.
Mayor Jeff Crockett said although a person has a right to their opinion, the sign company could have refused to put up the billboard.
“It’s free speech. I don’t think there’s a whole lot we can do about it. I’m kind of disappointed that the sign company allowed it to go up. They had every right in the world not to allow it once they found out the wording that was going to go on it,” said Crockett.
“They chose to allow it, and that’s their prerogative. It might have been financially motivated. It might have been the fact that they agree with the statement.”
Crockett says Harrison does not need any of this type of publicity. The community has been labeled as being racist in the past for race riots more than a decade ago and for having the headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan nearby.
“There has been a movement over the years by a nationally-known hate group that has tried to depict our area as an all white area that is not accommodating to minorities,” Crockett said. “That’s not true at all. They are located out in a very rural, remote area about 15 miles outside of town. They do not reflect opinion of our community at all, as can well be seen with the number of people that have come out and spoke out about this billboard.”
Crockett said he would like to see the billboard taken down, but it is not his right to do so. He said the only right he has is to speak out against the billboard and reflect the true feelings of the Harrison community.