Vandalism aimed at advocacy billboard - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Vandalism aimed at advocacy billboard

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This billboard in Carroll County, Ill. was vandalized earlier this week This billboard in Carroll County, Ill. was vandalized earlier this week
CARROLL COUNTY, Ill. (KWWL) -

A billboard campaign is stirring controversy and conversation. For the past three months, six billboards in the tri-states have read, "Creating a gay-friendly community."

This week, the billboard in Carroll County, Ill., near Savanna, got vandalized for the second time in the campaign's run. In September, somebody shot it with a paintball gun or otherwise marked it with red splotches.

This ad campaign is aimed at ending violence against and within the lesbian and gay community, but when the billboard went up three months ago, there was a lot of confusion as to what, "Creating a gay-friendly community" really meant.

Josh Jasper is the president and CEO of the Riverview Center, which co-sponsored the billboards along with the Give 'em Hope Project.

Jasper said the vandalism, which involved ripping a large hole in the billboard, sends a message.

"It re-iterates that fact as to why we are doing this campaign, and that, clearly, gay, lesbian individuals in our community are not feeling comfortable because of their sexual orientation, and there are a number of individuals in our community that are not comfortable with that," he said.

The Riverview Center is a non-profit organization in the tri-states that's committed to creating a community free of violence.

"What we see every single day is individuals coming into our office, reporting being harassed, reporting being raped or domestically assaulted because of their sexual orientation," Jasper said.

 

The Give 'em Hope Project is a new organization looking to create resources specifically for the LGBT community in the tri-state area.

"It's not okay for anyone - again, straight or gay - to be abused," Jasper said.

The Carroll County billboard, which had been repaired by Thursday with the next campaign's ad, wasn't so clear to everyone.

Savanna's police chief Michael Moon said he got a few angry phone calls when the billboard went up about three months ago but that most callers were just confused about the ad's message.

Moon said he wishes the ad had been better explained, though he's no longer getting phone calls about it.

"It's actually, again, coming back to our vision statement, of creating a community free of violence, so it has nothing to do with us advocating for gay marriage or rights or anything like that," Jasper said.

As for the vandals, Jasper said, "This is individuals acting out, opposing a specific message. It's not the entire community."

Too, he said, the campaign is working.

"We've seen a significant spike of individuals that are gay or lesbian come forward and receive our services," he said.

These are free domestic and sexual assault services.

"We know that we have to get rid of the sexism, the racism, the homophobia," Jasper said. "When we get rid of all of that, violence prevention will be realized."

The other billboards, in Galena, Dubuque, East Dubuque and Dyersville, haven't had any vandalism.

None of them will be up much longer, however. The center's ad campaigns run about three months each. The next one, promoting the Riverview Center's Facebook page, will be up and running soon.

 

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