For awhile now, Lancaster Courier has covered a controversy in Armstrong County, Pa. The controversy stems from a series of hate filled billboards put up by John Placek. He uses the propaganda laden signs to draw attention to his gas station along a busy highway outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. The station often offers gas for much less than the competition. For years, many have objected to the billboards but to no avail, as they continue to be displayed along the highway. Placek argues that he is just using his rights of free speech, while others call it an act of blatant hate and even intimidation. The latest controversy in all this seems like it could be a prime example of right-wing cancel culture.

After years of complaining that went nowhere, the Armstrong County Democratic Committee (ACDC) decided to put up a billboard of their own. Unlike Placek’s divisive messaging, ACDC decided it would offer an inclusive message and one that would reassure minorities, LGBTQ residents, and other marginalized groups that they are welcome in Armstrong County, which has seen a significant drop in population over the last decade or so.

But after just a week of it being on display, the ACDC billboard was suddenly dismantled and taken down. It wasn’t the work of vandals or anything, but by the company that the ACDC paid to put the billboard up in the first place.

According to the company, Huntington Billboards, based in Ohio, the billboard was taken down because the owner of the land that the billboard sits on claims he has received “death threats” as a result of the sign. That “claim” requires them to remove the billboard.

Chuck Pascal, the chairperson of ACDC, believes that is total nonsense. In fact, he points out that no police jurisdiction, locally or in the state even, have confirmed that any reports have even been filed. Pascal called this a clear case of “right-wing cancel culture.” 

“I’m not sure in which universe the message on the billboard is objectionable,” Pascal says. “This is nothing more than right-wing cancel culture.”

Meanwhile, Placek’s billboards remain despite many residents feeling threatened, intimidated, and insulted by his divisive MAGA messaging.

“Armstrong County is not represented by the billboards that Mr. Placek has up. This community is welcoming to all people, and we wanted to get the message out,” said Pascal.

The committee’s billboard said, “No matter what you look like, who you love, what your religion, where you’re from, you’ve got a friend in Armstrong County.”

It is hard to believe that such an inclusive message would result in death threats. And if there were any death threats, why does no law enforcement agency have any reports of those threats on file?

The really unfortunate part of all of this is that the area is shrinking both in population and economically. Something ACDC would like to change. So, it is about more than just politics, and more about  maintaining and improving people’s lives and livelihoods. This alleged right-wing cancel culture move will not help with any of that, from where Pascal and many others sit.

“His billboards hamper us from getting economic development in this county, hamper us from bringing jobs into this county and companies,” Pascal said.

Placek seems to be oblivious to all of that. He says, “I don’t see anything offensive about my boards. You know, I am telling the truth. The country is moving further and further away from God, which I feel is a problem.”

Whether or not the country is moving towards or away from Placek’s “God” is up for debate. But it is very true that Armstrong County, Pa is moving further away from peace and prosperity every day Placek’s billboards remain standing.

Below is a sampling of some of Placek’s billboards that he says are designed to bring people closer to God.