Thursday, September 29, 2011
Anti-Obama sign in Uptown neighborhood draws controversy
Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- There are several political signs attracting all kinds of attention in one Uptown neighborhood.
On Wednesday, crowds gathered at the corner of Calhoun and Coralie streets, looking at several signs depicting President Barack Obama as either a dunce, a puppet or a crying baby in a diaper.
"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.
"We have to determine that there is a zoning law that prohibits perhaps the size of the sign, perhaps the way that it's erected, that it is leaning over onto public property," Guidry said. "Whatever we can use, we will, but of course, we do have to balance that with First Amendment rights."
Yet, the signs remain in place, fanning the flames of a free speech debate on both sides of the fence