Neighbors concerned over racially insensitive yard sign

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Several Newport News residents are concerned about a homemade sign that was in a man’s front yard on Roanoke Avenue. The sign read, “No Trespassing Or Blacks.”

Two mothers who live in the neighborhood say their children get on the school bus at the intersection where the sign was located: Roanoke Avenue and 77th Street. The sign was removed minutes after WAVY News contacted the owner, but neighbors are still uneasy.

The mothers, who didn’t want to be identified, said they have children who go to Carver Elementary School. The Carver school bus picks up and drops off right across the street from the house with the homemade sign. Plus, there are no sidewalks on Roanoke Avenue, so kids often have to walk on the edge of neighbors’ property.

“They’re at an impressionable age,” said one of the mothers, speaking of her elementary-aged children. ” And you have this sign in your yard that gets them confused.”

The parents WAVY.com spoke to said they are questioning whether they should let their kids ride the bus from that location at all.

“To see a sign like that is crazy,” said Shauna Lewis, who lives down the street.

Lewis said she wasn’t worried about the neighbor, rather confused at the situation. Lewis said the New Market neighborhood is a diverse place to live.

“You shouldn’t even really be in this neighborhood because this is a mixed neighborhood,” Lewis said.

WAVY.com knocked on the resident’s door to ask about the “no trespassing” sign. WAVY News’ Liz Palka told the resident that parents were nervous to let their kids go to the Carver bus stop.

“They have nothing to be nervous about,” the man said.

He said he recently moved to the neighborhood and put up the sign some time in January. The resident claimed he was not being racist, but has had experiences with trespassers that made him want to put the sign up. He took the sign down a few minutes after WAVY.com left.

Parents said that doesn’t change how they feel. They have contacted the Newport News Public Schools’ transportation department to try to get the bus stop moved.

“It still leaves me uneasy,” said one of the parents.

Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Bar Association say people do have the right to free speech, even when it is offensive. Situations involving fighting words, harassment or threats are often not protected.

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