Michigan Road Sign Hacked To Show Racial Slur Against Trayvon Martin
By The Detroit News
Detroit, MI (April 9, 2012) -- The Michigan Department of Transportation is working with police to determine who hacked into a road sign and posted a racial slur along a freeway seen early Monday morning.
The portable electronic sign contained a reference to Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American who died Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., after being shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
The Michigan State Police began receiving calls about the sign at about 1 a.m., according to Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi.
"We were made aware that at about 1 a.m. someone hacked into a portable electronic message board we had on a trailer on WB Interstate 94 approaching Michigan Avenue," Morosi said. "The sign is there as part of a big project we have at the I-94/M-39 (Southfield Freeway) interchange. Calls were coming in from motorists who were shocked, disturbed and every emotion you can imagine."
Within an hour of being notified, MDOT contracted the subcontractor in control of the sign and a worker was dispatched to change the message.
"We also checked on the other signs to see if any of them had been hacked, but they were untouched," Morosi said.
The hacker was able to access the controls of the sign by breaking off a lock.
"So we're looking at vandalism and breaking and entering," Morosi said. "The hacker also took a keyboard from the sign. We're working with the MSP to find out who was responsible for this unfortunate act."
Hacking message board signs along freeways has been reported all across the U.S., with most messages confined to tongue in cheek warnings about zombies, ninjas, pirates, raptors, UFOs and the ever popular "the British are coming."
"This sort of thing pops up every construction season, but usually the messages are relatively harmless and quirky references to zombies and things like that," Morosi said.
"But nothing as insensitive as this. We hope that people understand that message boards are meant to be a public service warning drivers about upcoming work zones, closed ramps and things of that nature.
"We hope people are as offended by as we were."
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