A person dressed in a gorilla suit and gold chains, who carried a sign reading “Obama's Real Daddy” and attached a sex toy to the front of the costume, drew ire from the Sandusky community after walking around Ohio Bike Week in the get-up Thursday evening.
If the person—believed to be a man—returns to the festivities again Friday or Saturday, he will be dealt with swiftly, Sandusky police Chief John Orzech said.
Orzech conferred with Sandusky law director Don Icsman about the issue Friday afternoon and spoke with Sandusky NAACP President Jim Jackson as well, after receiving multiple complaints from local residents.
Jackson told the Register he's received more calls and inquiries about the protester than any other recent issue.
"In 2014, this is happening now? You would think this would be gone. It goes beyond making fun of Obama. He's making fun of his race suggesting suggesting the president is the son of an animal," Jackson said. "What that individual is doing is dangerous."
Dangerous indeed. Police now have a contingency plan in place should the person return because officers were concerned the man's offensive costume could spark violence, Orzech said.
“We've been...researching it all afternoon and we have a plan in place if the individual shows. I can't share our operational plan, but the issue will be addressed if it happens again," Orzech said.
He said officials have to tread lightly in this situation, as they cannot infringe on the individual's constitutional right to free speech.
However, that is not to say the man will be allowed to roam Sandusky's streets with a large genitalia-shaped sex toy hanging from his waist.
"If he was just in a gorilla suit and doing it, we would be limited in what we could do, but if he's there with an enhancement, so to speak, there's some other issues we can address," Orzech said.
Ohio Bike Week organizer Steve Ernst also weighed in on the matter, noting the person was not affiliated with the official event in any way.
“We want to handle this responsibly, but it is a free speech issue,” Ernst said. “You can't stop people from being idiots.”
Lifetime Sandusky resident Racquel Pace was disgusted when she saw a picture of the costume on Facebook Friday.
“It's just disturbing. How disgusting is this, for someone to be walking around like that. What if my kids saw that? It's uncalled for,” Pace said.
“People are there to have a good time. You have no idea what people will do in retaliation to that,” she said, noting that she'd heard chatter around the community that an officer asked the man Thursday night to simply remove the appendage.
Orzech said he only learned of the complaint Friday afternoon— no police reports had been filed on the matter Thursday.
Orzech did say all officers on foot patrol at Ohio Bike Week have been briefed on how to deal with the costume if it surfaces again.
“Once I found out about it, I was just trying to make sure we don't have any further issues,” Orzech said. “We're not attorneys, we're police that try to enforce the law and these things are complex.”