Outdoor advertising owner changes the sign on a billboard in Muncie, Indiana; he had set up in support of law enforcement on account of its racist nature. According to the Associated Press, Gary Dragoo, the man behind the controversial sign, claimed not to have the intention of being racist but rather to reinstill the respect for law enforcement that he feels this generation has lost.
The electronic billboard was placed by a liquor store in Muncie, roughly 105 kilometers northeast of Indianapolis, and read “hate cops? The next time you need help call a crackhead”. The offensive sign was spotted by Megan Thomas, who took a picture and posted it on Facebook on Saturday calling it “outrageously offensive” and “covertly racist.” She also included the contact information of the billboard company along with a question as to whether taxpayers money was used to set up the billboard. The post was shared 1 300 times by Thursday and received multiple responses both positive and adverse.
Thomas was appalled and ashamed at the level of discrimination the sign advocated, saying that it was placed just before a demonstration against police brutality was about to be underway closeby. Dragoo’s sign was in response to the killings of police that had taken place in Dallas where five police officers were shot dead during a Black Lives Matter protest. The incident sparked a media frenzy and melodramatic messages of concern from public officials, including the leader of the Oval Office himself, President Barack Obama. Simultaneously, there was hardly any rage and empathy in comparison felt for all the innocent African-Americans who had suffered and eventually died at the hands of police brutality.
The controversial sign lasted a few hours before the swarm of complaints led Dragoo to change it to a less provocative one that read: “love, respect, support law enforcement.” The General Manager of Muncie Liquors, where the sign was located, learned about the billboard when a clerk at the Wheeling store had called him about a person who was coming in to complain. However, the liquor store only rents the space where the billboard was located and had nothing to do with its existence. Johnson then called the billboard company on account of all the anger the sign had generated and was told that it would be taken down and changed.
Muncie Police Sergeant Chris Kirby also took to Facebook about the billboard defending the liquor store. He also mentioned that the city, the police department and the Fraternal Order of Police were not in connection with the sign either.
The placing of such a billboard was undeniably racist and shameless during a time of conflict, which is not new, between the police and Black-Americans. The use of the word ‘crack’, a drug commonly associated with African-Americans, was an unnecessary provocation. The fact that the police department’s statement only disassociated them from such discrimination is also problematic. As enforcers and protectors of safety and justice, they should have condemned the sign, at the very least.
It is instances such as these that should make it clear to US authorities and officials that as much as there may be a war against terror and the Islamic State, they need to address the one happening within their borders, and among their people.