Phoenix Trump billboard stirs debate, concern over images

Artist hopes her 'right to speak' will calm the discussion raging on social media.

PHOENIX - From her home in Santa Monica, California, artist, Karen Fiorito could only imagine what the scene was like in downtown Phoenix last Friday -- the first day of three-day art event.

"I just hope that everyone involved in helping bring this message out is safe," Fiorito said via SKYPE shortly after the billboard she created went up in downtown Phoenix, and before some major backlash.

Fiorito's work includes a portrait of President Donald Trump, surrounded by mushroom clouds and swastika-like money signs.

She told LA-area news outlets she'd been receiving death threats and has been harassed all weekend. She remains defiant, though, and has received a lot of support, as well.

EARLIER: Billboard owner says it'll stay up as long as Trump is president

"I have received so many emails," Fiorito said. So many, she hasn't been able to go through them all. "Messages saying, 'You have said  exactly how I feel and am so happy that someone had the courage to say this.'" 

On Facebook, numerous posts prompted Michael Shields to give his support: "It's called freedom of expression. That is what makes this country great."

But by late Friday the tide had turned.

"He is definitely not my cup of tea, but in my opinion this crosses the line." Kelly Bell Hester wrote.

And JLacaria tweeted: "...this is offensive. It's embarrassing to Arizona. It must come down now."

Meanwhile, members of the Jewish community also alerted the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona with their concerns over Fiorito's choice of images. 

"It invokes Third Reich imagery," Carlos Galindo-Elvira, Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona said. "And it plays to the worst stereotypes about Jews with the swastikas formed in the shape that they are... about money and greed and power."

Despite their disapproval of that imagery, the organization says it respects her First Amendment rights, and are not calling for the billboard to be taken down. 

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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