Image screengrab via For Freedoms website
Donald Trump may not enjoy it, but artists have always used their freedom of expression to speak out against oppressive political ideology. The 2016 election has been no different, whether the criticism has come from the cast of the hit Broadway play “Hamilton,” SNL actor Alec Baldwin, or Green Day at the American Music Awards.
The political super PAC For Freedoms is drawing ire today for their method of speaking out against Donald Trump, his cabinet appointees, and many of his supporters in Pearl, Mississippi. For Freedoms describes itself as “the first artist-run super PAC,” and their website states that:
‘We believe that artists, and art, play an important role in galvanizing our society to do better. We are frustrated with a system in which money, divisiveness, and a general lack of truth-telling have stifled complex conversation. We created the first artist-run super Pac because we believe it’s time for artists to become more involved in the political process.’
The group paid for a billboard in Mississippi that depicts what they see as Trump’s proposed vision of what making “America great again” might look like.
The scene in the photo is from March 7, 1965, a day referred to among Civil Rights historians as “Bloody Sunday.” At the time the photo was taken, only two percent of African-Americans in the state of Georgia were allowed to vote, and outlandish literary tests that required them to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar or count the bubbles on a bar of soap were used to circumvent the laws granting them their civil rights. After a 26-year-old black man named Jimmie Johnson was killed in nearby Perry County, Alabama, Civil Rights groups made the decision to march in protest of the denial of their right to vote.
In the first of three marches from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama, marchers were met with police who physically assaulted them as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) described the experience of that first march on its 50th anniversary in 2015.
‘I was hit in the head by a state trooper with a nightstick. I had a concussion at the bridge. My legs went out from under me. I felt like I was going to die. I thought I saw Death. All these many years later, I don’t recall how I made it back across that bridge to the church.’
In the billboard placed in Mississippi and paid for by For Freedoms, the super PAC asserts that the vision of Trump and many of his supporters for “making America great again” looks much like that scene in the moment before the attack. America was great, apparently, when protests were met with violence and when the U.S. government suppressed people of color in their struggle for freedom and equality.
Pearl Mayor Brad Rogers has ordered the company Lamar Advertising, who owns the space, to remove the billboard.
For more on the original march and Congressman John Lewis’s recollection of Bloody Sunday, see video below:
Featured image screengrab via For Freedoms website