‘AIDS, Ebola, Obama – Thanks Africa’ roadside sign causes a stir in Nebraska
The roadside sign was first spotted in the town of barely 3,000 on Monday this week, and it quickly created a stir on the internet as it was shared on the web first by Nebraskans, then soon the rest of the world.
"I wish it would go away, but it hit the social media," Minden Mayor-elect Ted Griess told nearby Lincoln, NE’s Journal Star newspaper. “It was being transferred all the way across this nation from one Facebook account to the next,” he added to an area NBC affiliate.
"There was a lot of reaction once people actually noticed it. There were several people, like car after car that came by, doing laps around to look at it and take pictures," Minden resident Chris Nielsen told KLKN.
A sign in Minden, Nevada drew a quick response: AIDS, EBOLA, OBAMA. THANKS, AFRICA. pic.twitter.com/OvRMusu97H
— NoTolerance (@RevkahJC) November 20, 2014
As attention mounted, though, so did pressure for the man who made the sign to remove it. According to the Nebraska Watchdog, reaction to the sign on Facebook ranged from remarks like “It needs to be blown off the face of the bloody planet” to “Who’s got a paintball gun I can borrow?”
Brett Maline, a Minden native who now resides in Hollywood, wrote on Facebook that the “awful sign” was not representative of his hometown and that he was worried it would give the wrong impression to people from outside of the area.
“I fear that people driving through will not know this,” he posted online, according to the Watchdog. “This angers, saddens and embarrasses me and I hope it would you too. Let’s get something done about it.”
Indeed, it didn’t take long before others sprang into action. Griess, the mayor-elect, said he reached out personally to the man who put up the sign and suggested he take it down for the sake of the town.
“I tried to point out to him that a sign of that nature alongside a highway gives the wrong image for a community,” Griess told the Journal Star. “It was just a citizen who, I guess, was expressing his political viewpoint. He had the right to do so, but it was a sign I interpreted, and I think the vast majority of citizens interpreted, as being very distasteful.”
Jeremy Nordquist, a senator for the state’s unicameral legislature, tweeted "It’s disgusting to see things like this in Nebraska.”
It's disgusting to see things like this in Nebraska. http://t.co/CcjjvaHfty
— Jeremy Nordquist (@NordquistNE) November 18, 2014
According to KLKN, the sign was gone early Tuesday morning — less than 24 hours after it was first discovered.
“It’s over, done and forgotten about as far as I’m concerned,” Roger Jones, the town’s outgoing mayor, told the paper. “I thought it's stupid I can't believe anybody would do that, but it’s no big deal,” he added to the NBC affiliate.
And as far as the man who put up the sign is concerned, his act was harmless. The individual, who has not been publically named, told KLKN that he made the sign because he was "fed up with what is going on in our country and this is the only way I could come up with to make a statement."
“[C]ome on people, I haven't threatened anybody,” he told the news network.
Other area residents said they agree that the individual was only demonstrating his freedom of speech. “I believe everybody has the right to their own opinion and if they would like to state it there should be nothing wrong with that,” one Minden resident, Dwayne Wilson, told the NBC affiliate.
Deena Winter, a writer for Nebraska Watchdog, noted that a bumper sticker with the same “AIDS, Ebola, Obama – Thanks Africa” slogan was being advertised on the Omaha, NE Craigslist two weeks before the sign was put up.