Tension in Crescent City over California Endowment billboards along Highway 101

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CRESCENT CITY, Calif. (KIEM) — Tensions are brewing up in Crescent City after Del Norte County 1st District Supervisor Roger Gitlin calls for the removal of two billboards put up by the California Endowment along Highway 101. He says the billboards and overall message are exclusionary and offensive.

“I found it to be an offensive billboard. It’s merely separated us even further and that’s not a message you want to send to a community, we have many different communities up here. I think the billboard should come down. It should be redone and the moniker across it in big letters would be all lives matter,” Gitlin says.

One of the two billboards is located along the highway near the harbor and the other just a mile south as you enter into Crescent City. Gitlin says it isn’t the masks themselves. He agrees with the message of wearing a mask and the importance of it in limiting the spread of Covid-19.

Rather it’s the messages on the masks that he believes are politically motivated. He argues that it is an important health message that does not need to be clouded by different political statements. There are 3 specifically that he is concerned about.

The first message is black lives matter to which he says all lives matter. Another is end racism.

“I absolutely believe we should work to end racism at all levels, but I saw the faces on there and saw an absence of any kind of phase representing European ancestry,” Gitlin says.

He also takes offense to the clenched fist pictured, which he believes is intimidating and a sign of violence. Overall, Gitlin says the message should have been inclusive, and people of all backgrounds should have been included.

This issue came to a head at Tuesday’s board of supervisor’s meeting with many people using the public comment period to address their issues with Gitlin, both regarding his statement on the billboards and other social media posts they view as racially insensitive.

District 5 Supervisor Bob Berkowitz tells Redwood News in an email, “I disagree with Supervisor Gitlin. He says the billboard does not reflect Del Norte’s values. I would rather say it doesn’t reflect his values.”

District 4 Supervisor and Chairman, Gerry Hemmingsen, says overall the board of supervisors strives to be as inclusive as possible, and believes Gitlin is making a problem out of something that isn’t there.

 “Our board has tried to be extremely open, diverse, and inclusive. We try to bring everybody in. He wants to separate, he wants to divide and conquer somehow and I don’t know what his goal is. He wants to make something that’s not controversial, controversial.  I don’t know that it was supposed to give us some sort of value, I thought it was promoting the use of masks,” Hemmingsen says.

We reached out to the California Endowment, and the other two supervisors Lori Cowan and Chris Howard for comment, but have not heard back yet.