The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating a float that appeared at the annual Fourth of July parade in the small town of Norfolk, Neb. because the float featured a blue flatbed truck carrying a zombie-looking mannequin in overalls on the door of an outhouse labeled “OBAMA PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY.”
The Justice Department sent a member of its Community Relations Service team to Norfolk (pronounced “Norfork” by many locals), reports the Omaha World-Herald.
The Community Relations Service team investigates disputes concerning discrimination.
The Justice Department bureaucrat attended a meeting on Thursday about the float fracas. Also in attendance at the meeting were representatives of the NAACP, the town mayor and members of The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the group that organizes the yearly parade.
The man behind the controversial float, Dale Remmich, has explained that the overalls-clad mannequin in front of the outhouse represented himself — not President Barack Obama. The point he was trying to make concerned his frustration with Obama’s mismanagement of the Veterans Affairs Department. (RELATED: Obama Administration Knew About VA’s Secret Wait Lists For Years)
The kerfuffle began after parade attendee Glory Kathurima, a native of Kenya, became deeply unhappy about the float. (RELATED: Obama Outhouse Parade Float Infuriates Nebraska Woman)
“I’m angry and I’m scared,” she told a reporter from the Lincoln Journal Star. “This float was not just political; this was absolutely a racial statement.”
It’s not clear if Kathurima has seen a Nov. 29, 2006 political cartoon by famed Atlanta Journal-Constitution cartoonist Mike Luckovich which shows a ratty outhouse with a wooden sign out front emblazoned with the words “Bush Presidential Library.”
It’s equally unclear if anyone at the Justice Department has seen Luckovich’s cartoon. (RELATED: Holder Refuses To Investigate CIA For Spying On Senate)
Parade committee member Rick Konopasek said the Odd Fellows only prohibit floats with morally objectionable content — like, say, nudity or sexually explicit words.
“We don’t feel its right to tell someone what they can and can’t express,” Konopasek told the Journal Star. “This was political satire. If we start saying no to certain floats, we might as well not have a parade at all.”
The parade committeeman noted that the float was a huge hit with most people who watched it proceed slowly by. It even won an honorable mention in the awards ceremony.
Betty C. Andrews, who presides over NAACP branches in Nebraska and Iowa, said she was baffled that Remmich, the float creator, could have been attempting to represent himself on his own float.
“Looking at the float, that message absolutely did not come through,” she told the World-Herald.
The Odd Fellows parade committee has indicated that it might bow to a single complaint and change its float policy for next year.