HUNTSVILLE, Weber County — A political jab in a Fourth of July parade is stirring up some controversy in Huntsville.
The entry was a limo with signs attached reading, "Huntsville welcomes the Obama farewell tour," and above the license plate reading "Obamanation" was a sign in large letters saying, "Ask about our assault gun plan" with "Call Eric Holder" in small print to the right.
The man behind the entry, Dave Clawson, is defending his entry, saying it was protected political speech and there shouldn't be anything controversial about it.
According to Clawson, the "assault gun plan" sign was referencing the "Fast and Furious" controversy involving U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Congress' investigation of a failed operation sending U.S. guns into Mexico.
What happened during the parade was taken out of context, Clawson said, insisting that the negativity surrounding the parade entry was an attempt to "demonize" free speech, when only two people complained to him personally.
"Half of my family voted for (Obama)," Clawson said Friday. "They were involved in putting this together. There was nothing offensive about it. How do I portray President Obama? … Is it OK to wear a President Bush mask, but I can't wear an Obama mask?"
Clawson said his family has previously entered political floats into the parade and organizers knew them.
“Why is it so wrong to poke a little fun at President Obama?" Clawson asked.
Resident Barry Hales jokingly calls himself one of the town's three Democrats. He believes the parade was not the place for politics. "It's not a place for someone coming in and being negative," he said.
But the concerns from some who saw the float go beyond that.
Huntsville Mayor Jim Truett said he has received angry calls to his house. He wasn't even aware of the float until Friday morning. "I think that they were trying to be funny and it really backfired," he said.
Not everyone had a problem with it all. Some people laughed and cheered as the entry passed them.
Councilwoman Laurie Allen said the town does screen floats though an application process, but Clawson’s entry came the day of the parade. Allen said another member of the council asked a Weber County sheriff's deputy to look at it before it ran in the parade and he found nothing illegal about it, so it was allowed.
"There was no threat made to the president," Clawson said.
But some spectators who saw the float, including Allen, objected to the message and felt its tone was threatening.
"It's very unfortunate, and as a representative of the Huntsville town, I totally apologize," Allen said. "I'm embarrassed that it was there."
The mayor said the policy for floats is fairly open. Clawson wasn't required to register his entry before the parade, but Truett said those rules will likely change in the future.
"That viewpoint does not represent us at all," he said. "We are a very patriotic town, and we just absolutely love it here."
Clawson said he won't apologize for his entry. He believes people just need to relax.
"It seems like we've gotten to a point where we don't know how to take a joke," he said. "We can make fun of anyone and everyone but President Obama."
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