In the small town of Hanson, Massachusets, the local merchant who put controversial anti-Obama signs outside his store has added two placards showing U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren in a Native American headdress with war paint on her cheeks.
“We’re $16 trillion dollars in debt and these politicians don’t seem to care and somebody’s got to pay the tab, right?” owner Robert Sullivan, 64, said Thursday.
Warren, a Harvard Law School professor, stirred a controversy after it was disclosed she was listed as Native American in several law school directories.
Warren has said her “family lore” described Indian ancestors, and the New England Genealogy Association said it found indications – but not proof – that Warren had a Cherokee great-great-great-grandmother, which would make her 1/32 Indian. She never sought proof of ancestry, Warren has said, because she had not felt it necessary. Warren says her father's family objected to him marrying her mother because she had "Indian blood" in her.
Alethea Harney, press secretary for Warren, declined comment on the signs Thursday. A spokeswoman for Brown, Warren’s opponent in the November election, did not return a request for comment Thursday afternoon.
The anti-President Obama signs, still there, sparked controversy in recent weeks.
One large sign shows a young girl giving the middle finger to the president. Another shows President Obama and says: “Somewhere in Kenya a village is missing its idiot. Obama One Big Ass Mistake America, Vote Mitt Romney for 2012!”
Hanson officials say the signs violate town bylaws. A Zoning Board of Appeals hearing has been set for 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 and the issue could end up in federal court.
“I don’t want it to go there,” Sullivan said.
Police have received more than 45 calls about the signs, which town officials said are a safety hazard at a dangerous intersection.
Sullivan said he’s doing it to make his voice heard – and has no plans to take them down.
“They call the signs obscene and I think the way the country’s being run is obscene,” he said.
Sullivan, a former Hanson resident who now lives in Hingham, said he’s spent more than $2,000 on the signs. He also has security cameras, recording 24 hours a day, on trees near the signs, which have been vandalized. The sign with the girl was stolen and replaced.
Sullivan has since chained the sign with the young girl to a tree nearby. He said he has three copies of each sign as backup.
A married father of two and grandfather of two, Sullivan said he sees nothing wrong with using the young girl’s image to promote his message.
“Somehow you’ve got to shake somebody once in a while and say ‘Look, wake up,’” he said.
Hanson building commissioner and zoning enforcement officer Robert P. Curran said he’s fielded calls from people who refuse to shop in Hanson until the signs come down.
Sullivan said he has received “hundreds” of emails from people nationwide and internationally, most of which have been positive. But he’s also heard from people who oppose them.
He received emails from as far away as the United Kingdom and Kenya, where people “are not real happy with me.”
“But that’s OK,” said Sullivan. “It’s hitting home.”
Sullivan said he built his business in Hanson 38 years ago and now employs 100 people between his company’s three locations in Hanson, Birmingham, Ala. and Reno, Nevada.
He also said he’s contributed to several fundraisers in town, and to the town food pantry, over the years.
“I’m voicing my opinion. As an American, it’s a right that we have and I’m going to use that right,” Sullivan said. “So we’re not bad guys here.”
On Thursday, some motorists honked their horns and gave a thumbs-up as they passed by the signs.
But Robbi Rotondo of Whitman, a mother of two, stopped to photograph the signs, calling them “pathetic” and “derogatory.”
“It’s making Hanson look worse” said Rotondo, 45, a former Hanson resident.
Each time Eric Folsom drives by the anti-President Obama campaign sign in Hanson, he tries to shield his young children from seeing it – that’s because it shows a young girl giving the middle finger to the president.
“If (my 6-year-old daughter) saw that, she’d say ‘Why is that little girl doing that? What does that mean?’” said Folsom, 27, of Whitman. “How do I explain that?”