They say it’s all without malice.
On the streets every Mardi Gras, there’s excitement to see what the Comic Cowboys come up with each year.
But for many in 2017 excitement was replaced with disgust at the tone of some of the signs; making light of a councilman’s near death experience, poking fun at Prichard and Black Lives Matter and comparing the superintendent to Hitler.
The signs caused a number of people to address city leaders and the fallout prompted two elected city officials to acknowledge membership in the organization and step down, one of which was the mayor.
“To some, what they are doing may be humorous, but to others, it is very hurtful,” said Mayor Sandy Stimpson. “So as mayor I can’t afford to be associated with the organization that is being divisive like that so I turned in my resignation,”
Lizetta McConnell is the president of the Mobile chapter of the NAACP. She has a problem with this type of organization where anyone could be in it.
“It’s not funny, that’s not a joke,” said McConnell. “And if anybody continues to parade those types of signs at the expense of hurting someone else we need to know what kind of people…who are you?”
We did want to know more about the organization; how it works, who comes up with the jokes and of course who else of note is a member. But no one would come forward. We tried reaching out to leadership directly, even offering them the chance to speak anonymously, but no one would talk.
News Five did receive rumors of another high-profile elected official who may be a member.
Rather than speculate we asked Congressman Bradley Byrne directly, catching up with him after a town hall last month. However, Byrne would not confirm or deny being a member.
“I don’t ever talk about things like that,” said Byrne. “I just don’t talk about things like that. In Mobile, we don’t talk about things like that. I don’t talk about other people being in it either, I don’t talk about things with any organizations.”
Byrne said he was aware of the controversy but wasn’t in town for Mardi Gras this year.
“If there was something that was offensive then they should not have done that,” said Byrne.
McConnell wants the city to penalize organizations that parade with overly offensive signage. City officials say trying to change the tradition is a slippery slope for everybody.
“This parade was offensive,” said Councilman Joel Daves. “But I think what everyone needs to remember is that the quickest way to take away your own constitutional rights is to persuade the government to take away someone else’s constitutional rights.”