Next Time You Need Help, Call A Crackhead
July 21, 2016 (Fault Lines) — A strongly worded pro-police billboard that recently appeared above a liquor store in Indiana sparked a public outcry highlighting the growing chasm between law enforcement and the communities they serve. The digital billboard stated, “Hate cops? The next time you need help call a crackhead.”
The Star Press reported that many Muncie residents were incensed when the slogan first appeared, calling it “vulgar” and “outright racist.” It also did not go unnoticed that the controversial billboard went up just hours before a Black Lives Matter protest against police brutality was scheduled to start a few blocks away.
Muncie Resident Megan Thomas was so outraged that she shared a photo of the billboard on Facebook on Saturday morning, writing,
Please tell me Muncie tax dollars didn’t pay for this! This outrageously offensive and covertly racist sign says “HATE COPS? The next time you need help CALL A CRACKHEAD.” We have no local in-patient addiction treatment center, yet we have money for this?
Thomas told the Star Press on Sunday that she taking a walk with her niece when she spotted the billboard. She said the message was “vulgar, discriminatory to many different classes of people in our city…I was very ashamed that something so dividing was present in Muncie.”
Her post elicited a firestorm on Facebook, with more than 1,000 shares by Monday afternoon.
While Muncie residents may have been shocked by the slogan, “Hate Cops? Call a Crackhead,” it is hardly new. In fact, it has been a popular pro-police catchphrase for a few years on Facebook and Twitter, and T-shirts with the slogan are readily available for purchase online. It’s been around long before the advent of social media, a perpetual police union favorite.
Chris Johnson, the owner of the liquor store where the sign was located, told the Star Press that he called the billboard company after he received a barrage of calls from irate residents calling for the removal of the sign. He was assured that the slogan on the electronic billboard would be promptly replaced.
Police Sgt. Chris Kirby posted a message to the Muncie community on Facebook Saturday, stating that Muncie Liquors “had absolutely nothing to do” with the message, nor did any local law enforcement. He was also quick to assure Muncie residents that no tax dollars were spent in erecting the sign.
RT reported that, as of Sunday morning, the controversial billboard had been taken down and replaced with “ads for car dealerships, a local restaurant, the city bus system and Hometown Outdoor Advertising, the company that owns the electronic billboard.” A new message appeared on the billboard Monday, saying, “Love, Respect, Support Law Enforcement.”
On Wednesday, ABC6 reported that Gary Dragoo, the owner of Hometown Outdoor Advertising, put up the billboard and is standing by its message, calling it “timely.”
I’m anything but racist,” he said. “I grew up respecting law enforcement, and it just all seems like it’s being lost today. I [sic] just seemed, being Americans, a timely message to put out there.
Dragoo thought the complainers were just misinterpreting his point, “the sign isn’t meant to be bigoted: He says it’s meant to support and honor police.” No word on whether any of Dragoo’s best friends are black.