Tea Party sign controversy in Olean
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OLEAN, N.Y. --- "2012 America versus Obama". It's a phrase that has set up neighbor versus neighbor in Olean.
"The man is trying to change America to at best, a socialist form of government," said Olean resident Carl Edwards.
"It's intimidating, it's scary when you call someone un-American," said Olean resident Barbara Dyskant. "It's like are they treasonous, are they betraying America? No, we're embracing America when we express opinions, even if they're different from others."
"I think if we keep Obama in another year, we're going to be in trouble," said resident John Maroon.
The signs were created by the Cattaraugus County Tea Party. The scatter shot of about 150 signs throughout the community stirred up host of opinions. More than 300 people turned out for a public debate at the Olean Public Library Monday night. In fact, so many people showed up, the debate had to be moved from a small room into the main area of the library.
"It already has spread beyond the medium of the signs," John Stengel, Cattaraugus County Tea Party member. "People are talking about it, we're having this debate, we know that the signs have gone to some other areas of the country."
On the other side of the issue from Stengel in the debate was St. Bonaventure philosophy professor Dr. Barry Gan.
"We're talking about signs that say America vs. Obama, which can't possibly be true because Obama was elected by a majority of Americans voting," Gan said. "Or they mean if you are supporting Obama, you are somehow un-American."
"The saliant issue is to remove the president from office, and to get someone in here who has a favorable view of our country," Stengell said. "We believe he doesn't."
"The signs have every right to be where they are, but I think the tone is very offensive to many people," Gan countered.
Cattaraugus County Tea Party members say they will continue to carry the message right through election day, which means Monday's debate might be a sign of things to come.