“Hate has no home here”: Appleton leaders respond to homophobic sign

Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 12:48 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 10:38 PM CDT
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - “Hate has no home here.” That’s the message from Appleton’s mayor in response to a digital sign displaying a homophobic slur in the city.

Mayor Jake Woodford and Appleton Police put up their own digital sign that encourages dignity and respect for all members of the community.

The sign is located at 200 N. Richmond. City leaders say it’s on private property and protected by the First Amendment.

“There’s a privately-owned and operated sign in Appleton with some hateful language on it,” Mayor Woodford tweeted. “The sign and the speech are constitutionally-protected, so we put up our own sign nearby: ‘Hate Has No Home Here.’”

The property is owned by Jamie Boyce. We reached out to Boyce, who told us he was quoting a Saturday Night Live script pertaining to former Wisconsin U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy and a stance against communism. He said he has no regrets about what was said.

“I feel very badly that my words were mistaken. I meant to make humor in the nature of Saturday Night Live,” said Boyce.

He added, “These people coming against me have evil in their hearts. I’ve talked to them, and they shake, they can’t handle themselves, and then the police department puts up its sign to encourage this against me. This is very scary, ladies and gentlemen. It’s very scary.”

The mayor tells us the sign has a history, going back several years, of displaying messages which have been controversial.

“We’ve received a number of complaints both in the mayor’s office and in other city departments, and it’s an issue that we continue to look into, but like I said, our understanding at this point is the speech on that sign is constitutionally protected. So, in the meantime we just want to underscore that we believe in treating all people in our community with dignity and respect,” Mayor Woodford said.

Boyce owns Krieger Jewelers, which gave us this statement Friday afternoon:

The current message is a reference to communism and feckless leadership per the owner. It was never intended to offend anyone, especially the LGBTQ+ community. The owner of the sign understands that the phrase used is considered offensive, and apologizes for using that kind of language.

Krieger Jewelers is not affiliated with the sign. While we certainly understand the harm and frustration this has caused, the views and the opinions put on the sign DO NOT represent the views and opinions of the store management or the employees. Your opinions and messages are being passed on to the owner, as he does not handle social media or the day-to-day operations of the store. We ask that you please respect the management and the employees as you leave feedback because circumstances are beyond their control. We would also appreciate it if the threatening messages would cease because our employees are just doing their jobs and trying to earn a living.

We celebrate love in all of its forms, and will continue to do so in the future.

Krieger Jewelers statement

The sign was changed Friday afternoon to read “If you care what you think, you are sick. If you care what I think, it’s evil upon you.”

A demonstration is planned for Saturday outside the sign. “Everyone is welcome, whether you’re LGBTQ+ or not. Rainbow flags and feather boas encouraged. And masks are common decency,” reads an event posting on Facebook, which has received interest from several hundred people.

The protest is scheduled for 2 - 4 p.m.

“It’s an unacceptable term that I don’t think anyone has used in decades, and it’s very, very intentionally hurtful toward a very specific set of marginalized people,” said organizer Helen Boyd.

Boyd also isn’t satisfied with how Boyce has responded, saying, “As much as I’ve heard this has been reported it was somehow a joke, it’s not a joke to us.”

Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas released this statement earlier: “Public messages and statements that make any community member feel threatened or disrespected is not acceptable and we are proud of our city’s community statement. First Amendment rights apply to all of us, and with that right we believe there is also a responsibility take ownership of your words, we are proud of ours.”

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