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John Wilson, KSL TV

Billboard depicting officer defaced with 'new slavery' message in Davis County

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Posted - Jul. 6, 2020 at 2:32 p.m.



WEST BOUNTIFUL — For the second time in a week, a billboard within the Wasatch Front has been defaced with a political message.

This time, a police public service billboard located in West Bountiful was found to have a large sign adjacent to a posed officer with the message "The New Jim Crow. Slavery. Don’t Pass It On.com." It’s a play on a message from The Foundation For A Better Life values campaign.

It’s unclear when the poster was placed, but it was spotted by motorists Monday morning.

The original message on the billboard, located on the I-15 southbound lane side just north of Exit 316, stated: "Answering the Toughest Call. Bravery" with a mention of the organization’s passiton.com website.

The Foundation For A Better Life, which touts itself as a nonpartisan nonprofit, has dozens of billboard designs with all sorts of uplifting messages that can be found across the globe. The organization explains online that the billboard that was defaced was meant to serve as a message to thank first responders.

"In every crisis there are heroes that rise to the challenge. These billboard messages represent our heartfelt appreciation for all who have valiantly stepped up at such a critical time," the foundation wrote. "Thank you for supporting these brave individuals with and for all you are doing to bring optimism and hope to our communities."

KSL.com reached out to the organization for comment regarding the billboard defacement but didn’t receive a response before publication.

Dewey Reagan, president and general manager for Reagan Outdoor Business, told KSL.com that the design was created and the billboard was placed in that location prior to recent protests. Agency employees said work was being done to remove the message tacked on to the billboard.

The protests, which have been held worldwide and all over Utah, erupted from the death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody on May 25 — leading to the four Minnesota officers to be charged with murder or abetting murder. The incident also rekindled discussions of police brutality and systemic racism in the U.S.

It’s possible the Davis County sign defacement references a 2010 book called "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" by civil rights lawyer and scholar Michelle Alexander. She explained in an interview with the New Yorker earlier this year that the book, which outlines widespread racial profiling problems within the American criminal justice system, was inspired by her work with the American Civil Liberties Union 20 years ago.

Alexander also said the idea for the book’s title came from a sign she saw at that time comparing the U.S. war against drugs to old southern Jim Crow laws.

The Davis County billboard discovery also comes days after a vandal climbed atop a billboard in Draper purchased by Domo with the message "#BlackLivesMatter" and used spray paint to write "All Life Matter" under it.

Domo CEO Josh James issued a statement on Saturday about that defacement, saying it "reinforces the dramatic lengths that some people will go to NOT have a conversation."

He added: "And it shows the amount of work we have to do as people to create a culture and community of understanding and empathy."

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