A violent billboard erected on Tuesday by a North Carolina gun shop depicting the four congresswomen nicknamed “the Squad” — Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — as the “4 Horsemen,” implying that they are bringing on the biblical apocalypse, is coming down.
The congresswomen, their supporters, and activists condemned the ad as deliberately inciting violence against four minority politicians. In addition to describing the women as “4 Horsemen,” the board also calls them “idiots.” It’s signed “the Deplorables,” in reference to Hillary Clinton’s offhand name for the supporters of Donald Trump; the gun store’s location is advertised at the bottom of the billboard. According to the store’s owner, Doc Wacholz, it is meant as a message about the “dangers of socialism.”
Danny Coleman, a spokesman for the billboard company that erected the sign, Allison Outdoor Advertising, said the billboard “is being removed,” per CNN, but did not say exactly when. He reported that a new one has already been designed for the store, Cherokee Guns. “It broke our hearts that the controversy happened. Freedom of speech is a right,” Coleman said. “Unless it is something illegal or offensive, we use our best judgment and let it go. It is tragic what happened. [Wacholz] has been a great client of ours for a while, he just has his beliefs.”
The billboard comes after Trump was widely castigated for his comments that these women should “go back to where they came from.” (All but Omar, who came to the U.S. from Somalia as a child refugee, were born here.) Omar and Tlaib in particular, as the first Muslim women in Congress, have been subject to violent, Islamophobic harassment since they took office in January. Two Louisiana police officers were recently fired for implying that Ocasio-Cortez should be shot.
An employee known only as “Butch” told local news on Thursday that the ad was not racist, per HuffPost, but that they were “putting the face of socialism out there so the American people can get a good look at it.” Pressley tagged Representative Mark Meadows, who represents the district in which Cherokee Guns is located, to ask for the billboard’s removal. The Cut reached out to Meadows for comment but did not get a response.
The gun shop had been disturbingly defiant about the billboard before it was announced that it would be removed, and released a bigoted, flippant message on Facebook earlier in the week. It advertised that it would be selling bumper stickers of the “four horsemen” image, and that customers must also “eat a piece of bacon” and “tell us you’re voting for Trump in 2020.” The reference to bacon is an Islamophobic taunt.
This story has been updated with additional information.