Billboard In Old Brooklyn Being Blasted As Racist - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Billboard In Old Brooklyn Being Blasted As Racist

BROOKLYN, Ohio - A billboard off of Pearl Road in Old Brooklyn that shows Martin Luther King Jr. with his arm around Osama bin Laden (pictured, right) has been getting plenty of reaction, 19/43 News' Paul Orlousky reported.

The billboard, which depicts King and bin Laden saying that they love each other, was put up on the property of sign maker Russ Sysak, who created the sign that some people are calling racist.

Sysak has put up many different signs with a lot of messages on the billboard over the years, and many of them have stirred up controversy. Many people with whom 19/43 News talked said that Sysak has gone too far this time, and they lined up to tell him so on Thursday.

"That's horrible," offended resident Michael Arthur said. "There's no way you can put Martin Luther King in the same category with (bin Laden). Martin Luther King stood for nonviolence. Doesn't he know that?"

When asked if Sysak should be censored, Arthur said that he should.

"To me, I say that he should be censored," Arthur said. "The law says no, but something like that isn't right."

The billboard also has text on it that calls former U.S. Rep. Lou Stokes a "poverty pimp" and King's followers "evil apostles." Sysak, however, said that the sign is not racist, and that he didn't go far enough.

"No, there's nothing racist up there," he said. "It's a satire in my opinion."

19/43 News caught an exchange that Sysak had with Renee Smith, a woman who was angered by the billboard.

  • Smith: "I don't like that at all."
    Sysak: "What about when I had compared George Bush to the Taliban, and (U.S. Rep.) Dennis Kucinich?"
    Smith: "This one's about race though, and that's a sensitive issue."
    Sysak: "Well, it shouldn't be. We're all Americans."

Everyone who saw the sign did not take offense to the billboard, however.

"It doesn't bother me personally," resident Jeff Miller said. "It would probably bother a person of color, but it doesn't bother me a bit.

"I don't pay any attention to it."

"That's quite a sign," resident Marty Miller said. "I love it. We all like it ourselves."

Citing the First Amendment's right to free speech, the head of the local Republican Party -- Mike Wise -- called Sysak's actions an irresponsible use of the U.S. Constitution. Wise said that those who use the First Amendment responsibly should condemn the sign.

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