The sign, which read “I Heard The White House Smelled Like Collard Greens And Fried Chicken,” was the latest controversial statement the bar, which was owned by Mike Norman until he died at 66 last year, has made. Past phrases have mocked the death of former Sen. Ted Kennedy and taken potshots at figures like former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney: “Cynthia – Call Your Proctologist. He’s Found Your Head.”
In 2008, the bar received national attention when it sold T-shirts reading “Obama ’08” depicting the cartoon chimp Curious George peeling a banana.
Some protestors, who briefly entered the bar and bought Cokes, said they had a positive effect because it brought out a larger than normal crowd to Mulligan’s, allowing their message to reach more people.
“There’s a lot of positive things that can be put up on that marquee,” said Dr. Robert Moore, pastor of Triumphant Community Church in Austell. “It looks like they were prepared for us today, but it looks like our statement was heard.”
Allan Jones of Cumming said he came to Marietta to show support for the bar. He said Norman’s daughters who have taken over running Mulligan’s, were simply carrying on his principles.
“We don’t care who comes in as long as they are legal and a true American,” Jones said. “We call for freedom of speech. We don’t want confrontation.”
Efforts to get comment from Mulligan’s owners were not successful, but on Saturday, the sign outside Mulligan’s read, “Many Americans Lost Their Lives Fighting For Your Freedom Of Speech.”
Atlanta attorney Jill Elliott said they weren’t there to protest free speech rights.
“I do believe in free speech, there is no reason for this provocation,” she said. “I’d like to ask the soldiers in Afghanistan if they appreciate this provocation.”
Some of the protesters, who were organized by the Marietta-based New Order National Human Rights Organization Inc., said they came out because they wanted to prevent another politically incorrect sign from going up.
“I believe I have the right to drive down the open road without seeing derogatory signs about African Americans, Jews or whatever,” said Willie Green of Kennesaw. “For whatever reason, you have people out here who don’t like me simply because I’m black.”
But frequent customer Wayne Markman of Marietta spent time speaking to protestors to try to help them understand where the owners are coming from. He called the signs “tongue in cheek.”
“I think people are taking this a little too personally and are very thin-skinned,” he said. “I’d like people to sit down, have a drink and talk about it instead of protesting.”
Markman, who is Jewish, said he believes people of any ethnicity are welcome at Mulligan’s.
“They make jokes and things about me being a Jew,” he said. “I laugh with them. If I took it personally, I wouldn’t come here.”