Racial controversy continues over Harrison sign | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Racial controversy continues over Harrison sign

Posted By on Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 7:10 AM


I posted the photo above last night of a sign at U.S. Highways 62-65 in Harrison, a highly visible spot. It's been touted by Facebook postings of KKK sympathizers who live in the Harrison area. Local college students vowed a protest. The mayor has issued a statement. The city has struggled to right its image from a dark past of racial discrmination. The radio station that had the top sign has had it removed to avoid guilt by association.

I was saddened to read this from a local radio news site:

A student at North Arkansas College had announced that she and others had organized a rally at the college for Thursday morning, and had circulated fliers mentioning the college.

According to Northark Director of Public Relations Micki Somers, this student is not part of an official student organization and does not have permission to use the name or facilities of North Arkansas College. Somers says the student acted on her own accord and did not follow proper channels for holding an event on campus.

Racism is a terrible thing. Terrible, too, is stifling of free speech by a public institution of higher learning. Speech need not be "channeled."

An unnamed peson responsible for the sign released a statement through the company leasing the space:

 "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 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 owner of Harrison Sign, who leased out the billboard, is a minority and says he does not believe the man is racist.

 Thomas Robb, the KKK leader who lives nearby and who uses Harrison as a mailing address and his clan may not be directly responsible for the sign, but his ilk are promoting support for it. See the page of Tom A. Robb.

This is one of those stories you hate to mention, because the publicity is exactly what was desired.

The Harrison paper has an interview with the sign company owner. He says the message doesn't violate the company's guidelines on avoiding profanity and nudity and he defends the right to political expression. I think he's right, though it's not a First Amendment issue. He is free to lease space as he chooses. It is only the government that is prohibited from taking action against someone on account of speech.

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