ELKHART — Demonstrators gathered again on Friday to express their displeasure with a tea party group’s billboard message here.
“The situation has not changed. The sign is still here, so I think there still needs to be people to speak against it, to put out a different message,” said Tom Butler, one of 25 or so who showed up.
The billboard message off Nappanee Street near John Weaver Parkway reads, “The Navy SEALs removed one threat to America... The voters must remove the other.” It has prompted criticism from some who say it hints at violence and equates President Obama with Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden, who died last year at the hands of Navy SEALs.
“Fear is being used as a weapon, violence is proposed as an antidote,” said the Rev. Amy DeBeck of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart, who spoke at the gathering. Earlier, she had said she hoped Elkhart “shows itself to be a community of love and trust and friendship.”
Contacted earlier Friday, Don Nunemaker, head of We the People of Marshall and Fulton counties, said he’s received word from other tea party groups around the country that plan to put up similar billboards. We the People paid for the billboard message here.
Nunemaker, who favors Republican Mitt Romney over Obama in the U.S. presidential race, has described the billboard as a call for Americans to vote.
“As far as the demonstrators, they’re free to do it,” said Nunemaker. “That’s what America’s about.”
He again rebuffed charges of promoting violence. The first phrase of the billboard is “riveting, it gets your attention,” he said. “Again, the key is that last line. It’s up to the American voter, period.”
The demonstrators plan to gather again Friday, also at 5 p.m., to protest against the billboard message again, said Butler.