Friday, January 31, 2003

Billboards bear vandals' message

Antiwar slogans will cause thousands of dollars in repairs

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] A Key Bank billboard ad (below) was defaced overnight Wednesday, as was this second billboard along Interstate 75 north of Hopple Street.
(Glenn Hartong photos)
| ZOOM |
[photo] | ZOOM |
Eight billboards along Interstate 75 carried additional messages for commuters Thursday - spray-painted graffiti opposing a U.S. war with Iraq.

Vandals painted billboards facing northbound and southbound traffic. Under a billboard for Rolex watches was the line: "No time for war, no time for hate." Under a "Vote No To Pot ... Roast" billboard was the message "Impeach Bush. Stop the oil war."

Cincinnati Police spokesman Lt. Kurt Byrd said the vandalism must have taken place late Wednesday or early Thursday.

"We've got no witnesses and no suspects," he said.

Norton Outdoor Advertising of Cincinnati owned four of the billboards. Owner Tom Norton referred to the incidents as "commercial terrorism." Dan Norton, vice president of operations, said the company was able to paint over some of the graffiti, but that some of the billboards would have to be re-papered at a cost of thousands of dollars.

"There's quite a bit of damage back there," Dan Norton said.

"In one case they shut off the electric so the lights were off (while they painted the graffiti). In another case they needed a 32-foot ladder to get up there. They just did what they needed to do."

Alice Gerdeman, executive director of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, said she agrees with the messages, not the methods.

"Our organization has a nonviolent philosophy, which would include any action hurtful to person or property," Gerdeman said. "But the words need to be said. When people feel very passionately about something, and people feel very, very strongly that we should not go to war, they need to express that. Because it is so serious in people's minds, these issues strike at the heart, so people will take actions they deem appropriate to get the message heard."

Radio station Q-102 had a billboard vandalized. "No war" was scrawled around the station's call letters.

"I think obviously people think it's vandalism, and it's not the message of the radio station," General Manager Mike Fredrick said.


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