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New billboard in Harrison, Ark. carries racist undertone, says race relations task force

By Paula Morehouse, pmorehouse@ky3.com
Robin Foster, ryancey@schurz.com
Published On: Apr 01 2014 12:04:01 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 01 2014 12:04:09 AM CDT

A new billboard in Harrison, Arkansas, appears to show a straightforward message, but many in the town say it carries a racist undertone.

HARRISON, Ark. -

They're meant to grab your attention and a Billboard in Harrison, Arkansas, is doing just as it was intended.

Many in the town, though, believe it's garnering the wrong kind publicity.

The billboard reads "Beautiful Town, Beautiful People, No Wrong Exits, No Bad Neighborhoods." It directs people to a website that indicates the town is nearly 98% white. The site also spotlights area residents like the Ku Klux Klan director Thom Rob.

The new sign is underneath older one that had already grabbed the spotlight; It reads "Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white."

The billboard company won't say who is responsible for either sign, or if it's the same person or group.  The Harrison Community Task Force on Race Relations also doesn't know if the two billboards are connected, but they say the message is similar.

One task force member says she feels as if certain groups are trying to portray Harrison as an anti-diversity city.

"They're trying to stake their claim and build a community for themselves that they feel like they carry some weight in, and I think the community has had enough of that and saying they don't speak for them," explained Layne Ragsdale, a member of the Community Task Force on Race Relations.

The billboard says it's sponsored by Harrison area business owners. KY3 news wanted to see which business owners are involved, so we went to the website and found a link to several realtors.

"I don't want to be associated with it," said Bob Dodson, a local realtor.

Dodson says he had no idea his business is linked to the site until a friend told him. The website does point out that the links contained within the site does "not imply sponsorship."     

KY3 emailed the contact on the website, but no one has responded at this point.

As for Dodson, he's trying to get his link removed from the website; he wants people to know the billboard message isn't a true reflection of Harrison.

"There are a few people who are trying to speak for the entire community and we have a loving community."