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Free speech or disrespectful act in Dixon?

Couple speak out against president; Hitler mustache draws complaints from residents

Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Tony DeFranco, of Chicago, talks to a man Wednesday afternoon outside the Dixon Post Office. He and his wife, Susan Wakefield, were encouraging passersby to join a movement to impeach President Barack Obama while standing in front of a table with a poster of the president wearing a mustache similar to Adolf Hitler's, which irritated some people, but police said the couple were properly exercising their right to free speech.

DIXON – The day President Barack Obama delivered a speech on the economy in Galesburg, an opposing voice was heard in front of the downtown post office.

What the couple had to say, though, became secondary to how they said it.

Husband and wife Tony DeFranco and Susan Wakefield, of Chicago, were encouraging passersby to join a movement to impeach Obama while standing in front of a table with a poster of the president with a mustache similar to Adolf Hitler’s drawn on it.

The image caused Vietnam-era war veteran Randy Lilly, 57, of Dixon, to ask “How can this be legal?”

“It’s disrespectful and it shouldn’t go on,” said Lilly, who voted for Obama. “Whoever is behind this has no respect.”

Lilly called 911 – and he was not alone. Dixon resident Ken Burnell, 65, also called Dixon police.

They were told that what the couple was doing was legal. It is freedom of speech and was conducted properly on a public right of way.

Those were the only calls they received, police said.

Wakefield and DeFranco represent the LaRouche PAC, which follows the beliefs of Lyndon LaRouche, once an adviser to President Ronald Reagan. The LaRouche movement centers around creating major economic infrastructure projects and calls for reform of the financial system, among other things.

In particular, they support legislation preventing banks from growing too large.

Burnell argued with them about what he said was an unfair comparison: Obama did not kill millions of people, like Hitler did, was his point.

DeFranco defended the depiction, saying Obama and Hitler are similar in many ways.

“Don’t dwell on that one thing,” DeFranco said.

“We need a paradigm shift in our government,” Wakefield said. “Obama is just a puppet for fascists, and the same companies who supported fascists.”

Burnell still doesn’t think it’s right.

“You mean to tell me if I wanted to put a 6-by-8 poster with the likeness of Adolf Hitler on [State Sen.] Tim Bivins [R-Dixon], I’m allowed to do that?” asked Burnell, who says he’s an independent who voted for Reagan, George W. Bush and Obama. “That’s just amazing.

“I think it’s a mistake.”

The couple said they decided to protest in Dixon because it’s Reagan’s hometown.

“We’ve been to places around Chicago and in Wisconsin, we like to get out and spread our message to the whole population,” she said.

They set up posters along the post office sidewalk calling for motorists and pedestrians to stop if they wanted to impeach the president. They talked to those who stopped and passed out literature supporting various legislation and information on the LaRouche PAC.

“I think people are sick and tired of how things are going, and we wanted to offer solutions,” Wakefield said.

Lilly said he wasn’t as concerned about their message as how they said it.

“There’s laws that say you can’t deface anything else,” Lilly said. “They should have a law against this.”

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