Filling a 22-acre site just off Route 31 in McHenry, the Gary Lang Auto Group is one of the county’s biggest dealerships, and it finds itself in hot water after controversial messages were broadcast on signs at the dealership.
Typically, the signs out front advertise car and service specials, but last week some area residents saw the electronic billboards carry messages calling some migrants criminals and accusing them of bringing "new strains of COVID" across the border.
Some signs also criticized Vice President Kamala Harris for the administration's response to immigration concerns at the border.
Heidi Sommers says the signs made her upset and angry.
“You know it really dehumanized everybody who crosses our border,” the Richmond woman who drives past the dealership every day said. “And has nothing to do with selling (cars), and so it was very shocking.”
Sommers and her Facebook group, Standing Up Against Racism of Woodstock organized a protest against the signs last weekend.
“The vigil was just to rally support for our Black, indigenous, people of color, friends and family, she said, “We want them to feel safe in our county and in our town.”
McHenry’s mayor says his office had received complaints about the signs, and he advised all businesses to avoid overtly political signs that don’t apply directly to McHenry County.
In a statement today, Gary Lang says his electronic billboards were taken out of context.
“In no way was it racially-motivated or anti-immigration, as my business was built and operates by the hard work of 165 people of all ethnicities and genders," he said.
Lang says the signs were born of his frustration over what he calls a "lack of transparency" about immigration policy and the way immigrants are being treated at the nation’s southern border.
Sommers says she is relived that the signs have changed over to what she considers more appropriate messages.
Lang says there may have been a better way to deliver his thoughts on what he considers an important but sensitive topic than on his company’s digital billboard.