(AP) - A Black Lives Matter sign now fills a billboard next to a big Confederate flag that greets people coming into a small town outside Raleigh, thrilling some community organizers and angering the property owner.
Organizers of a fundraising campaign that paid for the sign said it’s meant to show that Confederate flags “do NOT represent” Pittsboro.
It was “divine intervention that there was this billboard that was available right beside a Confederate flag,” Kerwin Pittman, a coordinator with Emancipate North Carolina, told The Associated Press. “It only made sense to put a Black Lives Matter billboard right in front of this land.”
Sam White, who owns both the flagpole and the billboard, said he agreed to unfurl the Confederate flag last year after crews removed a Confederate statue that stood in front of the Chatham County Courthouse in the city.
“Friends called and asked if they could put a Confederate flag on my property,” White said. He says they did it “because the county commissioners had removed the Confederate statue.”
White has leased the billboard to Lamar Advertising, which sent representatives to notify him before putting up the Black Lives Matter sign on it.
“They wanted to know how I would react to it, and I told them I would not want a Black Lives Matter sign on that billboard,” he said. “And if they did there would be repercussions.”
White said company representatives told him they would notify him before putting it up, but went ahead and did it anyway without telling him in advance. He now wants the sign removed when company's lease expires at the end of August, but the company said it has until the end of September to remove it, White said.
White said he doesn’t think the sign will last that long. “I suspect other people don’t like that sign more than I do,” he said.
Pittman said that when the billboard was unveiled on Monday, a group of Confederate flag supporters was yelling at people and harassing them as they took photos with the sign.
As for White, he says he’s “not a racist,” and has “Black friends up and down the road here.”