JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Drivers discovered a defaced billboard on Interstate 55 Monday morning that showed support for George Floyd and an inflammatory message toward police officers who kill in the line of duty.
The billboard, which reads “[Expletive] those killer cops!” and “Justice for George Floyd”, covered an existing advertisement which showed a hand and engagement ring.
Whoever vandalized the original advertisement left part of the hand and painted an extended middle finger to complete the message.
The act took place within the Jackson city limits, on a billboard located on I-55 South Frontage Road between the McDowell Road and Elton Road exits, meaning it’s in JPD’s jurisdiction.
The police department neither confirmed an investigation nor returned inquiries about the billboard Monday.
The appearance of the makeshift advertisement comes on the same day as closing arguments in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who held his knee on Floyd’s neck until the man died.
Ridgeland Police Chief John Neal said the act of vandalism is not protected by the First Amendment.
“People are entitled to opinions, people are entitled to views, but to go to that level with it, that’s the society that we’re dealing with now,” Neal said. “‘I’m entitled to make these statements because of my living and breathing on Earth. I’m entitled to make those statements.’ Yes, you are, you’ve got that protected free speech under that First Amendment. But to go to that level, they think that they’re well within their parameters of how they could and should act.”
Neal said Floyd’s death outraged him and and other police chiefs across the state, demonstrating a clear violation of protocol and excessive force that was inexcusable.
He also said the billboard vandalism appeared to be the first instance of a movement which started with Floyd to end in property damage of some sort in Mississippi.
“We saw our nation crumbling all around us, but Mississippi stood strong, and we voiced our opinions and we protested in the way that should be done and not loot and riot and create a much worse situation,” Neal said. “Now that we’ve had this [billboard] pop up this week, I would hope that those Mississippians that have been standing firm and standing tall continue that drive to protecting Mississippi but also voicing your opinions in the way that you that you legally can.”
3 On Your Side reached out to Lamar Advertising, which owns the billboard, but the company did not return requests for comment.