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'Okay to be white' signs found in Grand Haven

Becky Vargo • Nov 13, 2017 at 1:55 PM

Fliers stating “It’s okay to be white” were posted on trees and utility poles on Leggatt and surrounding streets in Grand Haven during the past weekend.

Grand Haven Department of Public Safety officers received a call on the postings shortly after 10 a.m. Monday. The caller had already taken down the signs when police arrived, officials said.

The 4.25-by-11-inch signs were posted on several trees and poles located between the sidewalk and street.

“In other communities, similar signs have contained links to a white supremacist blog — this was not the case with the fliers in Grand Haven this morning,” Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke said Monday. “While we are sworn to protect everyone’s right to free speech, we won’t ever support speech that attempts to divide us or that promotes racism. Everyone is welcome in Grand Haven and there’s no room for hatred.”

Leggatt Street resident Leon Bakke said he was offended by the display in his neighborhood.

“I think it’s not good for Grand Haven,” he said. “We already have a reputation for being an exclusive white city. This kind of reinforces it.”

The former Muskegon resident said he liked the diversity of that area.

“I’d like to see more diversity here,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of white supremacy.”

And that’s what Bakke believes the “It’s okay to be white” signs are all about.

“I think it’s a code word for white supremacy,” he said.

Bakke noted that signs in his neighborhood just didn’t have the link to any white supremacist website on them, like those found in other cities. These were also posted on the public rights of way, rather than on private property.

Hawke said that it is still a violation of a Grand Haven ordinance to place or attach signs to trees and utility poles in the city street rights of way without permission from the city’s community affairs manager. Signs posted in violation of the city ordinance will be removed and violators may be ticketed, he said.

The Washington Times posted three days ago that internet trolls provoked outrage on Halloween by hanging “It’s OK to be white” posters at several U.S. and Canadian college campuses. The signs were reported at Harvard, Princeton, Auburn and Tulane universities; the universities of Western Washington, Kansas and California-Berkeley; and the universities of Alberta and Toronto.

Campus officials typically removed the signs, which were condemned as “divisive” and “racist” by students and administrators alike. In several cases, the police were called, the Washington Times reported.

Anyone with information regarding the sign postings in Grand Haven is asked to call the Department of Public Safety at 616-842-3460 or Ottawa County Silent Observer at 877-887-4536.

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