When Free Speech Turns UglyPosted: September 29, 2011 Filed under: New Orleans | Tags: hate speech, Obama sign in Uptown 38 Comments
I was rather shocked this morning to read about a series of signs portraying the president as a crying baby with text balloons reading “Change me. I stink”, as a puppet of George Soros, and a Dunce in uptown New Orleans. I am always amazed when political disagreement turns ugly. I’m not going to print the offensive signs here because they’re a real test of our right to free speech. I wish people were as equally respectful of civility as some of us are of free speech rights.
Like the man or not, Barrack Obama is our president. We all have a compelling interest in disagreeing with his policies and the manner in which he carries out his elected office. However, the man is the President of our country and the office deserves respect. As much as I didn’t like George Bush and could poke fun of him and complain about him with the best of them, I would still curl my lip at things like watching him being hung or burnt in effigy. The Presidency is an important symbol of our country. We have an elected leader not a despot. I felt the same way when then Governor Quitteralla was hung in effigy in a front of a California home as a “Halloween” prank. You don’t have to like an elected leader, but there’s a way to disagree with them without resorting to displays of hate. There’s a place where free speech turns into hate speech and while it’s legal under our constitution, it’s should be called out for what it is.
“It disrespects the nation — and President Barack Obama represents our nation,” said Skip Alexander, as he looked at one of the signs. “He represents everybody, not some people.”
Dozens of protesters came by the house in the 1500 block of Calhoun throughout the day, demanding the sign come down.
“He wouldn’t do that to [President] Bush, I’m sure. It’s just insulting. It’s insulting,” said C.C. Campbell-Rock. “He’s going to have to take them down.”
“This is nothing put pure racism,” said Raymond Rock. “This is a disgrace.”
The home is owned by Timothy Reily, who declined to be interviewed about the signs. Former Mayor Ray Nagin showed up at the house and went inside to speak with Reily. He emerged later and would not comment on what they discussed.
Some neighbors tell Eyewitness News that Reily has been putting the signs up for months. Some of the protesters learned about the signs through a local radio station on Wednesday morning.
“He can put up a sign if he wants to. It doesn’t bother me,” said Harold Gagnet, a neighbor.
“I think it’s fine. It’s on his property,” said Katherine deMontluzin. “He can say whatever he wants.”
The signs have created such a firestorm of controversy, though, that police came to the scene– called in by City Council Member Susan Guidry. She represents the district where the home is located. Guidry said she was concerned about public safety and was trying to figure out if the sign was even legal. She also said she spoke to Reily, but didn’t get far.
You can watch the news reports and see the signs at the link above. The sign contains pretty much all the usual right wing hack memes like Obama is a Socialist. Did I mention that this is the wealthy side of town and there’s all kinds of diatribes up there on taxing millionaires too? My guess is that this guy is Teabot. I remember them waving signs about portraying Obama as a witch doctor when Dolecare got enacted. The city is trying to search through its zoning laws to figure out a way to take the bill boards down after trying to speak to the homeowner failed. The man definitely does have a right to his opinion, he has a right to express it, but aren’t there less hateful ways to do it? I frankly would be frightened to have a person like this living next to me. If he’s got that much anger towards a politician, you just never know what he’d do if an easy target showed up.