HARRISON, Ark. – A billboard in Harrison, Arkansas has grabbed the attention of thousands of people over the past few years – and is now the subject of a petition for its removal.
It’s an advertisement for White Pride Radio and ALT-Right TV’s website. Recently a video went viral showing a man carrying a Black Lives Matter sign and the reactions he received from many people who passed by him. Now there’s a growing push for the billboard to come down.
The sign has been up for about 7 years, but a new petition with more than 8,400 signatures is calling for it to be removed.
“It’s an entrance to our town, the first thing people see when they drive in is this billboard,” an attorney representing Harrison Task Force on Race Relations, Kelsey Bardwell said. “And that’s not the message our community wants to convey.”
The “White Pride” billboard is located along Highway 65 outside of Harrison, Arkansas.
The petition is a new approach to getting the sign taken down; the Harrison Task Force of Race Relations said they have wanted it gone for years.
“There have been other billboards in the past. This is actually the last standing one, and it’s disgusting,” said Elizabeth Darden, a Harrison Task Force volunteer. “It’s off-putting, and not a true representation of the majority here.”
The sign went up in 2013. The ALT Right TV Media website on the billboard was founded by the Knights Party, formerly known as the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
“It’s tarnishing our town’s name and preventing businesses from wanting to invest here, preventing employees from wanting to come and work here,” Bardwell said.
Some of the people in town say they just don’t like the message it sends to their community.
“We are all created equal. Why aren’t we treating each other equal?” Darden said.
Documents show the billboard is currently leased out but the owner of the sign, who didn’t want to speak on camera, said he is just doing business and the First Amendment gives his customer the right to have the sign up.
Meanwhile, others say they disagree.
“Harrison, Arkansas, no longer wants to be known as the most racist community in the country. We do not tolerate racism, bigotry, and hatred,” Darden said.
That’s why the task force made a petition in hopes of getting the sign removed.
“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.”
Documents show the land where the billboard is located used to be owned by Harrison Sign Company. On Monday, the land was transferred to Robb Law Firm, which didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.
The mayor of Harrison released a lengthy joint statement on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce President and the county judge, which reads, in part:
“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.”