A new billboard that popped up Monday at the south city limits of Harrison on Highway 65 was leased by The Knights Party based at Zinc and was designed to advertise a web-based radio station.
“Yes, that’s us,” said Thom Robb, national director of The Knights Party, when asked if the party sponsored the sign.
Claude West, owner of Harrison Signs, said he no longer leases out billboard space unless there is contact information on it. When asked for information about the sign, West deferred to the contact information on the sign.
Robb told the Daily Times that he has been working on the web-based radio station for more than a year and wanted to advertise it. He said there was no real reason for the time frame of erecting the sign, which went up Monday.
“We just wanted to wait until the first of the year,” Robb said.
The erection of the sign was first announced on www.harrisonar.net on Monday as well. Both Robb’s radio station website and the latter website say they are powered by WordPress, a service that claims to be “the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world, used on millions of sites and seen by tens of millions of people every day.”
Robb said he knows who runs that site, but he has no control over content. It lists no contact information other than an anonymous link to comment. Robb said the anonymity shouldn’t be a surprise.
He maintains that the city tried to destroy West’s business in response to two other billboards that went up anonymously and created national controversy, and that people threatened West personally because he declined to name the person who leased that billboard space.
“Look at the hate that comes out,” he said, referring to people who disagreed with the message on the billboards. “That’s why you find that happening sometimes.”
Robb said he also had nothing to do with some fliers that appeared in yards in Harrison last week. At least two people called Harrison Police to report a plastic bag containing rocks and a racially sensitive flier thrown on their yards Tuesday, Dec. 23.
The flier contained an e-mail address. The Daily Times sent a message to that address asking who was responsible for the fliers after a newspaper carrier showed concern that people might think the fliers were in some way related to his newspaper route because they were in many yards where papers were delivered.
“The last thing I think your carrier should be concerned with is that someone might assume the flyer came from the HDT,” the e-mail response said. “Anyone with half a brain or anyone that has ever picked up a copy of the HDT knows better and I think you do too.
“I won’t reveal who was responsible for the fliers but I will tell you that I am unaffiliated with any group or organization,” the response continued. “Although I’m sure some will attempt to tie the fliers to a semi local group. It always seems that people (like you just did) want to know who? who? who? It’s always easier to attack a person than it is to address a message and have an honest dialogue.”
“I have no idea who did that,” Robb said, adding that he and his family had friends over for dinner that night and they called him to report finding a flier in their yard when they got home.
In the announcement Monday, harrisonar.net included the statement, “The Harrison Task Force on Race Relations, and the rest of their ilk who proudly crowed about running the racists out, better think twice. Sometimes it is better to remain quiet and be thought a fool, then (sic) to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
Robb was asked if he thought that meant the writer of the announcement considered the new billboard to be racist.
He said he had no idea what the writer meant, but he had a question of his own.
“What is a racist? he asked. “Everyone has their own definition of it.”
Robb said the lease on the billboard is for a year.
“We’ll probably redo the lease at the end of the year,” he told the Daily Times.