VAY — The U.S. Secret Service is being asked to review a sign a Bonner County landowner put up which suggests a "free public hanging" of President-elect Barack Obama and several other political figures.
The handmade cardboard sign also features a noose fashioned from a length of nylon rope.
"That's a political statement. They can call it whatever they want, a threat or whatever," said Ken Germana, who installed the sign on his property off Golden Gate Road in southwestern Bonner County.
Obama's name is the most prominent on the sign, although it also bears the names of former Democrat presidential nominee John Kerry, current U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and civil rights activist and former presidential candidate Al Sharpton.
Sheriff Elaine Savage said she is referring the matter to the Secret
Service, which is tasked with protecting the lives of presidents, presidential contenders and those who are in a presidential line of succession.
"I'm sure they will be looking into it," Savage said on Wednesday.
The Secret Service agent in Spokane, Wash., who was asked to review the situation was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.
The Bonner County Human Rights Task Force said it is outraged by the display.
"Everyone has the right of free speech, unless it advocates the killing or hurting of someone or incites violence, which violates the doctrine of human rights," Christine Holbert, president of the task force, said in a statement.
Holbert called the sign "hateful" and said its content is not protected under the First Amendment.
"I would not want to be in this man's shoes when the Secret Service interviews him," she added.
Germana said he poses absolutely no threat to Obama, but admits he would not lose any sleep if harm did come the president-elect's way. He said he made the sign to protest hypocrisy in two high-profile incidents involving effigies of Republican vice president nominee Sarah Palin and Obama.
The Palin effigy was erected in Los Angeles and the Obama effigy was put up at the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington. Both incidents made headlines in the run-up to the general election, but Germana maintains they were treated differently by authorities and the press.
In Germana's view, nothing was done to the creators of the Palin effigy, while those who were involved with the Obama effigy were arrested.
"If other people can make political statements, so can I. Just because I don't live in California doesn't mean I don't have my rights, too," he said.
Germana calls any insinuation that there is a racial tone to his sign malarkey, emphasizing that its message is clearly equal opportunity.
"If these Katzenjammer cops want to pursue it, God bless 'em. But I've got my rights just like everybody else does," he said.