Speaking out against I-5 banner: 'We need to stand together'

EUGENE, Ore. -- Local leaders gathered in the downtown park blocks Friday to condemn what they are calling a racist message displayed on a sign that was hung from an I-5 overpass last week.

The banner read "anti-racist is a code word for anti-white", and has since been removed.

People at the event said the overpass sign had a discriminatory message, and they didn't want that type of message in Lane County.

The meeting was organized by Equity and Community Consortium, which is made up of 11 public agencies. ECC members worked with Community Alliance of Lane County to formally denounce the sign.

Sheldon Berman, both superintendent of 4J schools and a member of ECC, believes diversity should be celebrated.

"It's important that diversity in our community is supported. That we look at issues of race and racism and confront those," said Berman.

Eugene Water and Electric Board General Manager Roger Gray agreed, adding he believes racist intolerance is a problem the community must face on a united front.

"The people who may be threatened by these kinds of events they know in this community as a whole, we believe the overwhelming majority supports the entire community," Gray said. "I think if any of us feels unsafe, we should all feel unsafe. We need to stand together when we see these things."

Above all, those who spoke against what they say was the sign's racist message believe diversity is something to be celebrated.

"Diversity is a critical asset in any community, and the more we look at the way we treat each other, and the more we support each other, the better off our community is," Berman said.

Organizers also passed out fliers that read "hate free zone," hoping to replace the message displayed on the overpass with one of tolerance and acceptance.