This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Austin Hudson says he felt heartsick about negative online comments against Muslims and Latinos after Donald Trump's victory. So the South Jordan graphic artist started what he thought would be a little campaign "to show we still love you guys."
It is spreading quickly.
Hundreds of the placards he designed and printed have been posted around the Salt Lake Valley, showing a smiling Uncle Sam extending his hand and saying, "You belong here."
It adds: "This is a country of immigrants and common people. No vote will ever change that. God bless America. God bless you."
"I woke up the day after the election and, like everybody else, my Facebook wall was particularly ugly," Hudson says.
That spurred the idea for posters to counter the "negative feelings that I know don't represent who these people are" and to help them overcome the pain and fear caused by negative campaigning.
"I wanted to do something secretly, although that didn't work, even remotely," he said. He and a friend hung a first round of posters wearing disguises late at night in his South Jordan neighborhood but neighbors correctly guessed who was behind it, and the secret came out on social networks.
"I penciled on a crappy mustache and put on a dumb hat and trench coat, and thought, 'Aha, no one will find the mystery bandit,'" he said. "In hindsight, I think I just looked like an idiot. I looked like a really bad Humphrey Bogart character."
Now many others have asked for posters and are also posting them around the valley. As of Friday afternoon, he figured about 300 had been posted and he was printing more.
"Over the last couple nights, we've gone into some more diverse neighborhoods. As soon as we can get them printed up, we're going into more neighborhoods to see how many of these we can get up," Hudson said.
"I wanted to do something where maybe someone would drive by and feel a little bit better about how the week has gone," he said.
One who did exactly that is state Rep.-elect Mike Winder, R-West Valley City. He tweeted a photo of a poster and wrote, "Someone is taping these up in our diverse WVC neighborhood today. So sweet. I love my neighbors. #MakeAmericaCivilAgain."
Hudson said the posters are not just directed at Muslims or Latinos who were targeted by Trump in his campaign. "Honestly, it is about the neighborhood in general. I've been fortunate enough that I am very close with all of my neighbors…. Every one of them would literally give you the shirt off their back."
He said he is trying to help everyone remember that "these are still our neighbors and the same people we knew a year ago or five years ago. Nothing's changed other than a vote, and a vote doesn't change who we are as people."
Hudson said the reaction to the posters has been mixed.
"What started as a message of inclusiveness, has turned into arguments about illegal immigration and all sorts of foreign policy," he said. "I keep thinking, 'No, the message is just we still love you guys. It's not a political thing.' I think a lot of people are reading more into these signs than is there."
He adds he tried hard "not to make it political," and said he is a political independent who has voted both Republican and Democratic in recent years.
Many people have been supportive, Hudson said, but "there is a handful of neighbors who are a little bit unhappy."
He said he has not heard of any posters being defaced. He was told that one was removed from a nearby elementary school "because a parent called and complained about it, which seems silly to me. But I understand we are in a democracy where you have the ability to express if you are unhappy with something."
Some others were removed not because people disliked them, but instead because they liked and wanted them.
"I had one of my neighbors send me a Facebook message that said, 'I'm really sorry. I stole one of your signs. But it's currently hanging above the bar in my basement,' " Hudson said.