… the bullies that I am referring to are the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law …
… this is the bunch that Ralph Neas used to run , and Nan Aron now runs …
… well , a story from my local newspaper hit , and I think that many of you may well be interested in it . It involves billboards . A somewhat shadowy committee has financed and put up billboards on the near East Side of Cleveland . As one might think , yea , they are for a predominantly minority audience . The area that it was put up in in the city is not all black , but it is mostly black , with some Asians and Latinos mixed in . …
… Now , this is where the Lawyers Cmte is jumping in . They think that minorities cannot act and think for themselves , and they are acting in their stead . They are moving to intimidate the billboard company , Clear Channel Outdoor , to force them to take down the billboards …
… Here is the story , with a sample of the billboard …
Stan Donaldson, The Plain Dealer Organizers will protest in front this political ad at the intersection of East 35th Street and Cuyahoga Community College Avenue on Thursday. They say the sign discriminates against minority voters.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A civil rights group has called for a local advertiser to remove signage about voting fraud from dozens of billboards in Cleveland that it says unfairly target minorities.
The Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights, a voting advocacy group based in Washington, sent a letter this week to Clear Channel Outdoor in Parma requesting they take down signs that read “voter fraud is a felony.” The signs, which also list potential criminal penalties, have sprouted up in various sections of Cleveland and some suburbs since last week.
The group used census tract data to determine the demographics of the neighborhoods in which the signs were placed. Census tracts are areas that average about 4,000 residents and loosely follow neighborhood boundaries.
In addition to Cleveland, the billboards also have begun to appear in predominately black neighborhoods in Cincinnati and Milwaukee, the group said. The sponsor for the billboards is only listed as a private family foundation.
In its letter to Clear Channel, Lawyers’ Committee said the signs, “stigmatize the African-American community by implying that voter fraud is a more significant problem in African American neighborhoods than elsewhere,” and the billboards “attach an implicit threat of criminal prosecution to the civic act of voting.”
Eric Marshall, who manages legal mobilization for the Washington group, said Clear Channel should remove the signs from neighborhoods in Cleveland.
“These billboards are placed in predominately African American or Latino neighborhoods only,” Marshall said. “They send a pretty strong message, and a very dissuasive message that is not good for our democracy.”
For instance, in a census tract where a billboard was posted at the intersection of Cedar Avenue and East 79th Street, the voting age population was 96 percent black. In the area around a sign at Carnegie Avenue and East 36th Street, the population was 88 percent black.
And black residents accounted for 76 percent of the voting age population in a census tract near a billboard at East 35th Street and Community College Avenue.
Cleveland City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland and State Sen. Nina Turner will hold a rally at 11 a.m. Thursday in front of a billboard at the East 35th Street location to discuss their efforts to get the signs removed.
The politicians and some residents said the signs intimidate minority voters, felons and students who may not know their rights.
Rob Frost, chair of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party, said that he considers some political advertisements inflammatory, but that is part of having free speech. He added, though, that he would favor laws requiring full disclosure of who purchases billboard ads.
As for these billboards, he questioned if they target any particular segment of the population.
“It appears to not be a discriminatory effort, but a region wide effort that someone wants to get the word out about voter fraud,” Frost said. “Raising awareness about voter fraud and keeping this election fair helps us all have confidence in the results.”Ultimately, getting the billboards removed before the election may prove to be a tall order.
Jim Cullinan, a spokesman for Clear Channel, said the advertiser for the billboard has a contract for the signs to be posted at those locations.
“The advertisement has nothing to do with Clear Channel Outdoor, it was the advertiser,” Cullinan said.
He said the company understands the sensitivity of the signage and would start a dialogue with political leaders and community activists who have expressed their feelings about the billboards.
Cullinan said it not the company’s normal practice to install signs without naming the sponsor, but that the group, which requested anonymity, was able to get the language in their contract. He said the company now views that as a mistake and will not post signs without naming the official sponsor in the future.
“We prefer to have that disclaimer in any ad,” Cullinan said. “In our minds, it is an error that it was not in there.”
But Marshall, with the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights, said Clear Channel should remove the signage from its billboards.
“Clear Channel has a choice,” Marshall said. “Contract or not, it is not right to be putting intimidating messages up in predominately minority neighborhoods.”