Less than a week after a Polk County man caught the nation's attention with a contentious billboard reading, "Make America White Again," a local grassroots movement has set up another billboard campaign meant for people of all colors.
Starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday, motorists driving along Paul Huff Parkway will now see a message from the mouth of Nelson Mandela: "No one is born hating another person."
The billboard is just one of three that the Drive Out Hate group would like to see up in Bradley and Polk counties over the next several months.
Josiah Vacheresse, executive director for Court Appointed Special Advocates for children, said he's seen messages of hate and wanted to show that wasn't the story of his community.
"I really wanted to avoid the perception that residents in this region feel that way or treat one another that way," he said. "That's not what we're about. That's not what we're for."
Vacheresse, along with family, friends and a little help from the internet, got to work and laid the groundwork for a different kind of advertising campaign.
The digital billboard on Paul Huff Parkway went up last week.
Through a GoFundMe page, the group has already gathered enough to pay for both billboards for a month, but they also hope to add another billboard and then pay to keep them up for several more months.
Even though Rick Tyler — who paid to put up the "Make America White Again" billboard and who is also running as an independent in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District — said he hopes to wake a white "sleeping giant" in the country, Vacheresse said his campaign isn't directed at Tyler.
"It's not an attack on any one person. We just want to show that we're a people of love," he said.
Far from being upset about the billboards, Tyler said he's glad to see them, even if they're a pointed rejection of his own message.
"I think it's great what they're doing," he said. "They're stoking the fire of the story."
"I'm all about freedom. It's great that they are able to say what they want to say. What's tragic is that I'm not able to. I'm not allowed to. My First Amendment right is being nailed to the cross."
Two of Tyler's signs were taken down last week, a move by the billboard companies that he says he did not approve.
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731.