Arkansas billboards some see as racially-charged will come down

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 file photo, motorists drive past a newly installed billboard near the intersection of Arkmo Road and Vine Road in Harrison, Ark. The billboard that drew the ire of some for its racially charged message is coming down over the next few days in Harrison. The company that owns the sign wouldn't identify who paid for it, only saying it was a young man who was paying $200 a month for a year. (AP Photo/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Samantha Baker, File)


LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — A billboard that drew the ire of some for its racially charged message is coming down over the next few days in Harrison.

The sign, which is along the Harrison Bypass, went up in last October and reads, "Anti-Racist is a Code Word for Anti-White," the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1zoEXra ) reported.

City leaders decried the billboard after it went on display along the U.S. 62/65 bypass. Harrison Sign Co., the company that owns the sign wouldn't identify who paid for it, only saying it was a young man who was paying $200 a month for a year.

A second billboard went up underneath the first one in March and is also coming down. It reads, "Welcome to Harrison. Beautiful town. Beautiful people. No wrong exits. No bad neighborhoods."

Harrison Sign Co.'s owner Claude West said the leases on the two billboards expired Nov. 1. The lessees were told they couldn't renew their contracts, West said.

Calvary Baptist Church has leased the top billboard that will have a message on it that reads, "Where Everyone is Welcome." The bottom sign will be an advertisement for a McDonald's restaurant that will say "Harrison," with the "o'' replaced by a heart, West said.

He said the man who leased the controversial billboard told him that it referred to the federal government. West said the man told him that anyone who criticizes the government is called a "racist," because President Barack Obama is black.

West said Thursday that he received many calls after the billboard went up, and the responses were split in support and against it. Eventually, he said, most callers were complimentary of the sign, saying that it was a First Amendment right to free speech.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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