HARRISON, Ark. — A widely viewed video showing the reactions to a white man holding a "Black Lives Matter" sign in an Arkansas city home to the Ku Klux Klan has reignited a push to remove a "White Pride" billboard at the entrance to the town.
A group has worked for years to remove a billboard advertising White Pride Radio and the alt-right TV website at the entrance to Harrison, KY3 reported. The billboard went up in 2013. The Knights Party, formerly the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, own the alt-right media group, KARK reported.
“There have been other billboards in the past. This is actually the last standing one. And it’s disgusting. It’s off-putting, and not a true representation of the majority here,” Elizabeth Darden, a volunteer on the Harrison Task Force on Race Relations, told KARK. “Harrison, Arkansas, no longer wants to be known as the most racist community in the country. We do not tolerate racism, bigotry and hatred.”
The group is trying a new approach to get it removed, a Change.org petition. So far, they have more than 8,800 signatures.
“It’s an entrance to our town, the first thing people see when they drive in is this billboard. And that’s not the message our community wants to convey,” Kelsey Bardwell, an attorney representing the task force, told KARK. “It’s tarnishing our town’s name and preventing businesses from wanting to invest here, preventing employees from wanting to come and work here.”
The owner of Harrison Sign Company, which owns the billboard, said he is just doing business, KARK reported. He said the content of the billboard is covered under the First Amendment.
“We can do something by speaking out,” Bardwell said. “We can’t control whether they want to take that sign down. We are just asking them to do the right thing.”
The sign and city were featured in a widely viewed video by white filmmaker Rob Bliss. He held a sign that read “Black Lives Matter” in a public place and surreptitiously filmed the reactions of people passing by. The two-minute video splices together those animus reactions but does end on a positive note.
“I know that I have privileges and abilities as a white man to go into a nearly all white town and hold this sign without as much fear as a person of color would have,” Bliss told CNN. “I think it’s important where I have these privileges, I have a responsibility to use them to help lift up other people as well.”
The mayor, chamber of commerce and county judge would also would like the sign to come down. They released a joint statement:
“In the last few decades, we have taken community efforts to denounce racism on all fronts and we are committed to doing more … our race relations task force has worked to successfully remove four of the five privately owned billboards. They continue trying to remove the last one.”