‘Achmed’ display prompts protest

By Jason Ferguson

Two people protested Rushmore Automotive last Thursday due to what they claimed was the bigotry of a display outside the shop that the shop owner says is not racist nor bigoted, but rather, anti-terrorist. Another protestor showed up to protest the protestors shortly thereafter.

A skeleton dressed up as a “retired terrorist” and put up outside a local business was boycotted last week by a pair of people who carried signs indicating the display was bigoted.

The display is outside Rushmore Automotive, located on Mt. Rushmore Road, where owner Steve Sallee said he first put “Achmed” out as a Halloween display and it quickly grew a following.

“He’s my pet terrorist,” Sallee said.

Sallee, who served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, said the display is a conversation piece that makes him feel better to have out as he was among many veterans who dealt with terrorism in the 1980s.

“We feel if they had let us do our job back then, the Twin Towers would be standing today,” he said.

Sallee said he feels the display is entertaining and draws laughs and positive comments from many who stop by or go into his repair shop. Sallee said recently a busload of VA residents stopped at the nearby Common Cents to get snacks, and a pair of them walked over to the display at took photos with it, laughing the entire time.

The display is anti-terrorism and anti-terrorist, he said, and nothing more.

“There’s absolutely nothing racist or bigoted about it as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “Apparently those two snowflakes think there is.”

The two protestors were on the public sidewalk outside the business for around an hour and a half, but two days earlier one of the protestors came into the shop to tell Sallee he didn’t like the display and was going to protest Rushmore Automotive, calling Sallee racist, which Sallee did not appreciate. He told the man to leave his shop. The man allegedly also went to the Custer County Courthouse to tell dispatch he planned to protest the business, as well.

A while into the protest another person showed up to protest the protestors. The man held up a sign that said “These two are dumba**es.” Eventually all of the parties dispersed.

Custer County Sheriff Marty Mechaley said the sheriff’s office received a call about the protests, but said none were doing anything wrong, as they were on public right of way. The man protesting the protestors was parked on private property, but that issue was resolved.

Sallee said he will continue to have Achmed on display if he can, but said the property his business sits on is not his, and the landowner may decide to have him retire his retired terrorist. He hopes that is not the case. He recently purchased items to dress up the display for St. Patrick’s Day.

“I may have to take it down. If I do, he won’t come back,” Sallee said. “It’s a damn shame. I don’t think (the protestors) have a clue what they’re doing. I don’t know what they think they’re protesting.”