These Chilling Billboards Will Greet the Republican Presidential Candidates This Week

August 4th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

When presidential hopefuls make their way through the Rust Belt this week for the season's first nationally televised primary debate in Cleveland, Ohio, the Republican presidential candidates will have to drive past a series of billboards designed to remind them of the country's ongoing problem with policing, specifically as it relates to officer-involved killings of Black residents in the state.

Three billboards posted along Interstate 71 on Monday will call attention to the deaths of Tanisha Anderson, John Crawford, and Tamir Rice—three Black Ohioans who died at the hands of police this year—and six additional digital billboards will appear throughout downtown Cleveland later this week, with questions directed at one of the debate moderators.

A civil rights lobbying group based in Oakland, California, ColorofChange.org, funded the one-week campaign. The organization chose to display the signs in Cleveland in an effort to push politicians to address issues such as mass incarceration and racial bias in policing in advance of the Republican debate, according to Cleveland.com.




One billboard reads "He was a child playing at the park," a reference to the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in November 2014.

Another reads "Her family called 911 in a time of need," referring to the November 2014 death of Tanisha Anderson, who died in police custody after suffering a mental-health episode that same month.

"The billboards come at the start of #BlackAugust, a time when organizers across the country are preparing to celebrate the growing movement to end discriminatory policing and systemic racism," the online civil rights group said in a statement released on Monday. "One year after the tragic killing of Mike Brown there is a both an incredible opportunity to change the law enforcement policies and practices that threaten the lives of Black people every day and a great deal of work ahead."

The six other digital billboards will include the hashtag #HeyMeg, which is meant to catch the attention of Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, one of the three moderators set to host the debate on August 6.

  • #HeyMeg: Does the GOP Support Responsible Body Camera Policies?
  • #HeyMeg: Will the GOP Support the Right to Vote for Citizens Who Have Served Their Time?
  • #HeyMeg: Should Cops With a History of Racism and Abuse Still Have Jobs?
  • #HeyMeg: Will GOP Candidates Support a National Database Documenting Police Practices?
  • #HeyMeg: Does GOP Support Greater Police Oversight?

Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange.org, said that he was encouraged by the prompt indictment of Ray Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot Sam Dubose last month and now faces murder charges, however, that was not enough—that a national debate had to involve a conversation about race relations and policing.

"Ohio has a long history of violent, corrupt, and discriminatory policing that must be stopped," Robinson said. "As we saw with the tragic murder of Sam Dubose in Cincinnati, a city heralded for its advances in ‘community policing,’ superficial reforms are not enough to keep Black and brown communities safe."

"The rare indictment of police officer Ray Tensing for the murder of Sam Dubose is at once a critical step forward and painful reminder of the countless other Black families who have lost loved ones to racist policing and will most likely never have their day in court. While police are murdering Black people with impunity, our national leaders have done little more than offer superficial reforms at best and endorse systemic racism and abusive policing at worst. It's time to hold their feet to the fire."

In a year that has seen multiple, officer-involved killings of unarmed Black people across the country, the stakes appear higher than ever to confront our growing problems with policing.