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Controversial anti-illegal immigration sign defaced
Tuesday, 08 August 2006 16:45

The billboard on Patton Avenue, which was sponsored by the Buncombe County Republican Action Club, was defaced in two separate incidents two weekends ago. Vandals first crossed out the address of the BCRAC??s Web site and replaced it with the word ?®racism?? and later added a note listing the name of the restaurant where the group meets.


Outraged by nationwide demonstrations in support of illegal immigrants last May, one group of citizens took their message to the streets by way of two billboards ?? signs that some have termed racist and even defaced.

The Buncombe County Republican Action Club raised funds and purchased the two signs on Patton Avenue and Swannanoa River Road that depicted an American flag turned upside-down beneath a Mexican flag. The signs read, ?®Had Enough??? with the Web site for the BCRAC listed beneath it.

The image depicted on the sign was taken from photographs of one of the protests that took place during pro-immigrant rallies across the country last May, according to Kathie Lack, president of the BCRAC.

?®We were very upset by the action of the students in California who took the flag and turned it upside-down under the Mexican Flag,?? Lack told the Daily Planet on Monday.

However, soon after the billboards were first displayed, the one on Patton Avenue was defaced on two separate occasions.

In the first incident, someone crossed out the Web address and wrote the word ?®racism?? on the sign last month.

In a second incident two weekends ago, a hand-painted sign was added, telling the location where the group meets ?? Ryan??s steakhouse on Patton Avenue.

After the billboards went up, a meeting was held by Catholic Social Services last Wednesday to develop a public response to them.

Debbie Braese, area director of CSS, called the meeting ?®to have a dialogue about developing a proactive and positive response that we could present to the media in an effort to turn around the negative and punitive attention this has generated,?? according to an e-mail distributed to officials and residents of the city, including Mayor Terry Bellamy and many members of Asheville??s Hispanic community.

The meeting resutled in the creation of three committees,  each with a different focus for addressing what some participants felt was a racist backlash. The committees are currently discussing how to do so, according to Edna Campos, one of the participants in the meeting.

However, BCRAC President Kathie Lack denies that the intent of the billboard was racist. The BCRAC is not opposed to immigration by any particular ethnic group, she told the Daily Planet, but is against illegal immigration.

However, she added, 81 percent of illegal immigration  into the U.S. is from Latin America, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Of that number, 24 percent are from Mexico.

?®They are the ones that have thrust themselves into the public eye,?? Lack noted.

The protest at which the flag-raising took place was at Montebello High School in Montebello, Calif.

However, a notice on the home page of the school??s Web site says that the students involved in the incident were from another school district and that the school??s ?®administration, staff, and students do not condone this action.??

The BCRAC, which already existed prior to the billboard campaign, decided to use the flag image as a way to publicize its message of opposition to all illegal immigration.

?®We feel that this image captures the contempt that a majority of illegal immigrants have for the country that they have immigrated to,?? Tim Peck, another organizer of the BCRAC, added.

Illegal immigration is an issue that crosses lines of party affiliation, Peck and Lack noted. Peck, who said he most strongly associates himself with the Libertarian Party, said, ?®It??s true that the Action Club sprung out of a Republican organization, but we??re really focused on the issues.??

?®As a matter of fact, we don??t check party affiliations at the door,?? Lack added. ?®As a Republican, sometimes people get locked into: ?„This is my party and it??s always right.?? We tend to speak the truth and say, ?„This is not okay.????

Furthermore, both Peck and Lack expressed great frustration with the Bush administration??s handling of the immigration issue.

?®They??re rather sereptitious about their motives,?? Peck said. ?®First they say, ?„Jobs that American??s won??t do,?? then ?„Jobs that American??s aren??t doing.?? ... I??m very disappointed ?? I??d like to see him (Bush) impeached.??

The BCRAC originally had about 20 members, Peck said. However, he added that since the billboard campaign, its numbers have nearly doubled.



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