Racist Halloween parade float targets former Harrisburg mayor

NEWPORT, Pa. (WHTM) – A pretty eye-opening float in a Midstate Halloween parade caught the attention of Pennsylvanians across the area.

It’s a racist depiction of Harrisburg’s former mayor, Linda Thompson. Pictures on the float started circulating online Thursday and Friday.

Remember this? It’s from March of 2013:

“We’re not opening up our flood gates for some scumbag that comes from Perry County who … comes here and wants to dump it for free,” said then-mayor Thompson, describing the problem of illegal garbage dumping in the city.

Perry County remembers; just look to Wednesday’s Halloween parade in Newport.

A float rolled by spectators that targets Thompson and her scumbag comments. A banner on the side of a black convertible reads “Linda Thompson Perry County Commissioner Home of the SCUMBAG.”

(Thompson is not — and does not appear to be running for — a Perry County commissioner seat.)

But it’s the costume of a person riding in the car, surrounded by garbage bags, that’s bringing all the attention: a gorilla costume.

“Wrong is wrong, and you can’t justify it,” said Harrisburg NAACP president Stan Lawson.

He said it’s just plain offensive to portray African Americans as monkeys. It’s a racial slur with a century-long history in the U.S. Thompson, of course, is black.

“Nothing good can come of something like this,” Lawson said. “It’s offensive to the entire community.”

Just as offensive — and ignorant — he said, as calling everyone in Perry County scumbags.

Legions of internet commenters have defended the float, saying it’s just a joke and not meant to offend anyone.

Lawson said, simply, that doesn’t matter.

“It’s like sexual harassment,” he explained. “It’s not what you mean when you do it, it’s how the person receives it. You may not mean it to be harmful, but it’s how the person receives it.”

The president of the Newport Lions’ Club, the group that put on the parade, said they can’t screen every float, but that one would have been stopped had they realized.

A call to the parade’s organizer about who made the float, and whether or not approval was needed, was not returned Friday.

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