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Gazette Premium Content Float targeting Obama, library draws criticism

Associated Press Updated: July 7, 2014 at 9:36 am

NORFOLK, Neb. — A float comparing President Barack Obama's future presidential library to an outhouse has drawn criticism from some after it appeared in the Fourth of July parade in Norfolk.

It featured a wooden outhouse labeled "Obama Presidential Library" and a figure in overalls standing outside the structure.

"I'm angry and I'm scared," Norfolk resident Glory Kathurima told the Lincoln Journal Star. "The float was not just political; this was absolutely a racial statement."

Kathurima, an immigrant from Kenya, is raising her 9-year-old daughter in the northeast Nebraska community of roughly 24,000.

Parade organizers with the local Odd Fellows lodge said the float was the most popular one in the event and received an honorable mention award. Parade committee member Rick Konopasek said he didn't think the float was any more offensive than a political cartoon, and organizers didn't want to limit what they considered a political viewpoint.

"We don't feel it's right to tell someone what they can and can't express," he said to 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."

Konopasek said most of the crowd enjoyed the float. "So should we deny the 95 percent of those that liked it their rights," he said, "just for the 5 percent of people who are upset?"

Norfolk City Councilman Dick Pfeil told the Omaha World-Herald that he was unhappy with the float, and he wanted to make clear the city had not approved it.

"The city of Norfolk doesn't condone that," Pfeil said.

Kathurima said she is having a hard time explaining the float to her daughter.

"My daughter keeps asking me, 'Why?' and I don't have an answer for her," she said. "We made this place our home, but right now it doesn't feel like it. It's shameful."

Parade organizers plan to meet within the next week to discuss the float and whether any policy changes should be made for the future.

Currently, the only restriction on parade floats is that morally objectionable entries won't be permitted. Konopasek said that generally translates into a ban on sexually explicit messages.

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