Man's Controversial Billboard Torched Overnight - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Man's Controversial Billboard Torched Overnight

BROOKLYN, Ohio – A controversial billboard off of Pearl Road in Old Brooklyn that showed Martin Luther King Jr. with his arm around Osama bin Laden was torched overnight, 19/43 News' Harry Boomer reported.

Before the fire was sparked, the sign sparked a lot of talk in the neighborhood, the majority of which was not flattering to sign maker Russ Sysak's work.

Sysak's billboard, which he called a satire, depicted King and bin Laden saying that they love each other. It also included text that, among other things, said that all of King's followers were "evil apostles." Many people who saw the billboard immediately said that it was racist.

Sysak expressed himself with his sign, others expressed their opposition to his message and then others expressed themselves by torching the billboard.

"I guess I got lynched," Sysak said. "I said that Martin Luther King disguised his message of 'burn, baby, burn' with 'I have a dream.' Well, they just ruined my dream."

Sysak is no stranger to controversy. Someone once drove their car into one of his other billboard creations.

Neighborhood resident Fred Dumas said that he has driven by Sysak's signs on a daily basis, and is always offended by them.

"It got probably what it needed," Dumas said. "You don't need this garbage in this neighborhood."

"He's got the right to say what he wants, but there's such a thing as common sense and good taste, and frankly, he lacks both," neighborhood resident Don Workman said.

19/43 News talked to Sysak's sister, Nancy Sysak, on Friday, and she stood up for her brother's right to free speech.

"For somebody to maliciously set fire and do something like that, I call them a Benedict Arnold," Nancy said. "We have to respect each other's right to express an opinion, whether we like it or not. Pretty soon, none of us will be able to express our opinion."

Despite the torching, Russ made it clear that he had no intention of stopping to adorn the billboard with his homemade signs.

"It's like getting you're a-- kicked, and you have to decide if you're going to get up and keep doing it."

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