HUNTSVILLE, Utah (AP) — The mayor of a Utah town is apologizing over an entry in its annual Fourth of July parade that some say went too far in poking fun at President Barack Obama.
Someone wearing an Obama mask and a suit walked next to a limousine with a sign reading, “Huntsville Welcomes the Obama Farewell Tour?”
But it was a banner on the back, “Ask About Our Assault Gun Plan!” with “Call Eric Holder” in smaller letters next to it, that some spectators say crossed the line.
“The Fourth of July celebration is to celebrate unity and being a country,” DeDe Fluette of Ogden said. “This was promoting hate; this was promoting violence against the leader of our country. It was not appropriate in a Fourth of July parade.”
Donn Owen of Ogden criticized what he called the “racist” Obama mask worn by someone who danced and glad-handed spectators along the route of the town-sponsored parade. The Obama impersonator was accompanied by boys dressed as Secret Service agents.
“It was just way out of line,” Owen told Ogden’s Standard-Examiner. “It’s like white men years ago” would dress in blackface.
Huntsville Mayor Jim Truett issued an apology, saying the last-minute entry would not have been allowed in the parade had town officials known about it beforehand.
“All we can do is apologize,” Truett said. “Was it in bad taste? Probably. Obviously, (its) political views do not represent the town council or town. … We don’t want people thinking we’re just a bunch of racists.”
Dave Clawson said his entry wasn’t racist or a threat to the president, and he won’t apologize for it.
He said the assault rifle sign was a reference to a controversy involving U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder over a failed gun-tracking operation known as Fast and Furious.
“I will offer an apology to no one for it,” Clawson told KTVX-TV. “There was nothing wrong with it. We were just expressing a little political humor, and that’s just fine. If you watch Saturday Night Live, you’ll see much worse every time.”
Spectator Robert Steedley of Ogden said the Obama parade entry was simply a way of exercising freedom of speech.
“I saw it and thought it was hilarious,” he said. “It upsets me that people think it’s racist because it’s a black president. We’ve been making fun of presidents since I don’t know when.”
After concerns were raised about the entry before the parade began, organizers asked Weber County sheriff’s deputies to determine if it violated any laws.
“Deputies concluded there weren’t any legal violations and left it at that,” sheriff’s Chief Deputy Klint Anderson told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It appears it was just someone exercising free speech.”
But because of the concerns, the sheriff’s office contacted the U.S. Secret Service about the entry Thursday, Anderson said.
“Their concern is if this constitutes a threat against the president,” he said.
The Secret Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.
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