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Billboard paying tribute to first responders vandalized with message warning of the ‘new Jim Crow’

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Traffic moves along I-15 in South Salt Lake on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

BOUNTIFUL — An outdoor advertising company in northern Utah is working to fix a billboard that was recently vandalized, the second such event to occur in the Salt Lake Valley this week.

Alongside I-15 in Bountiful, the message on a billboard featuring a police officer with the words “Answering the Toughest Call. Bravery” was covered up by a new sign reading “The New Jim Crow. Slavery. Don’t Pass It On.com.”

It’s the second politically motivated case of billboard vandalism in the Salt Lake area over the last few days. Over the weekend in Draper, passersby noticed a Black Lives Matter billboard sponsored by the Utah-based business analytics platform Domo was vandalized, the words “ALL LIFE MATTER” spray painted at the bottom.

The vandalism comes during a period of political tension in Utah and the rest of the country, with protesters taking to the street to decry racism and police brutality on a daily basis.

Sponsored by the Foundation for a Better Life, which describes itself as a “a nonpartisan, nonsectarian organization,” the billboard in Bountiful is part of the “pass it on” campaign. With messages featured on TV, radio and billboards across the world, the organization “seeks to offer inspirational messages to people everywhere as a contribution toward promoting universal values, good role models and a better life,” according to the organization’s website.

With messages like “It will get brighter. Optimism. Pass it on,” the Foundation for a Better Life doesn’t pay for any air time or media space, instead relying on free promotion from media and advertising companies.

According to the organization’s website, the billboard that was vandalized was a tribute to first responders, intended to “represent our heartfelt appreciation for all who have valiantly stepped up at such a critical time,” the website reads.

On Saturday, Domo CEO and founder Josh James released a statement explaining his rationale behind the Black Lives Matter billboard and his reaction to the vandalism. The company put up the billboard as a sign of support after conversations with Black employees and Black community members, he said.

The vandalism “reinforces the dramatic lengths that some people will go to NOT have a conversation. And it shows the amount of work we have to do as people to create a culture and community of understanding and empathy,” James said in a statement.