PEARL, Miss. (WJTV) — A controversial billboard Highway 80 in Pearl is getting a lot of attention.
The billboard appears to depict a moment from the civil rights era and has the words “Make America Great Again” on it.
It’s placed on a Lamar Advertising billboard. The display says that the signage was paid for by For Freedoms. It also says the billboard was not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.
The original photo dates back to 1965, to a day known as “Bloody Sunday.” Police and protesters faced off over voting rights in Selma, Alabama and 14 people died.
According to For Freedoms’ website, they use art to inspire deeper political engagement for citizens who want to have a greater impact on the American political landscape.
Hank Thomas is one of the artists behind the billboard that incorporates the campaign slogan of President-elect Donald Trump and the historic photo.
“We don’t know much about Donald Trump except that he likes attention and he will say anything to get it,” said Hank Willis Thomas, co-founder of For Freedoms. “I really want us to start to ask harder questions like well what do you mean when you say make America great again? That has not yet been asked.”
WJTV reached out to Lamar Advertising about the billboard.
A spokesperson told us that since everyone is entitled to freedom of speech, they saw no issue with putting it up. They had nothing to do with the creation of the billboard.
Governor Phil Bryant has seen the billboard and calls it reprehensible according to Mississippi News Now.
“It’s disappointing that this group would use this image as an attempt to divide the country,” said Bryant.
Pearl Mayor Brad Rogers also told MNN the the billboard doesn’t violate any laws or city ordinances and that since it’s “not vulgar” it is protected by freedom of speech. However, he called Lamar Advertising and asked for it to be removed.
“We don’t want to be dragged into something. No matter the fact that it wasn’t meant to be controversial, good gentleman and put it up to put people bring people to their website and I think he has probably done that, but he’s done it in a way that we don’t approve of,” he said.
“Beginning this conversation, I hope it doesn’t end when this billboard comes down, but that its actually just the beginning of a longer deeper conversation that will make our country better,” Thomas said.