Humboldt County coronavirus protester’s ‘slaves’ sign goes viral

Warning: This article contains imagery that readers may find

A photograph of a Humboldt County resident holding a sign that
compares California’s ongoing stay-at-home order to the slave
trade has exploded online to widespread reactions calling the sign
racist and deeply offensive.

Gretha Stenger held the sign at a protest last week in front of
the Humboldt County courthouse, where she was photographed for a
post in Redheaded Blackbelt, the community news blog in Southern

In a statement on Monday, Stenger apologized for the image,
which was shared thousands of times on Twitter and garnered
hundreds of reactions on Facebook from people criticizing the
sign’s message. Stenger said the sign was not hers but handed to
her by another protester at the demonstration.

The image appears to depict Escrava Anastacia, an African slave
venerated in Brazilian folklore.

Stenger, wearing a red scarf, is photographed holding a sign
that depicts a black-and-white image of a young woman wearing a
muzzle, with the accompanying message: “Muzzles are for dogs and
slaves. I am a free human being.”

In past years, Stenger has directed plays for North Coast
Preparatory Academy in Bayside, but the Humboldt County Office of
Education said Monday she is not currently employed at the charter

Below is Stenger’s full statement, provided to the
Times-Standard on Monday afternoon:

“Holding that sign up at the lockdown protest was a grave
mistake and I ask forgiveness from all those who I have caused
pain. As I had no sign of my own, it was handed to me by another
protester and a photographer took the picture before I considered
the racist implications. My intent was to take a stand for the
freedom of all human persons and I mistakenly held a sign that
conveyed the opposite. Please know that I respect the dignity of
all people and I sincerely regret any suffering it has

Stenger did not directly address several of the
Times-Standard’s questions about the ongoing stay-at-home order
or the equivalencies drawn between that and slavery.

The protest,
one of many regular demonstrations in front of the courthouse
featured sign-wielding residents demanding an end to California’s
policies surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Among local policies is that residents should wear masks when
they can’t stay six feet apart from each other, in order to slow
the spread of the respiratory illness COVID-19.

Many of the tweets sharing and criticizing the image include
Stenger’s name, which is identified in the photograph of her in
Redheaded Blackbelt. Another woman photographed holding the sign
has also been widely identified. The Times-Standard has not been
able to reach the other woman for comment.

Sharrone Blanck, president of the local National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People chapter, said Monday that Stenger
should back up her apology with actions, instead of just words.

“The first issue is the fact that this person is equating dogs
to enslaved people, specifically enslaved Africans,” Blanck said.
“Then she identifies herself as a free human being — somehow
above and better than people of African descent and people of color
in general who were made to wear muzzles.”

Blanck criticized local news outlets consistently covering
recent protests of the stay-at-home order and neglecting other
local demonstrations, including a recent May Day rally, in which
protesters adhered to social-distancing guidelines.

“The media really needs to look at why they cover some things
and not other things, and do an analysis of whether or not they
cover events with people of color instead of events that are
predominantly white,” Blanck said.

Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.

Related Articles

Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Humboldt County coronavirus protester’s ‘slaves’ sign goes