California Woman Gretha Stenger Apologizes for ‘Slaves’ Sign During Anti-Lockdown Protest


Getty A police officer mans the entrance to a coronavirus (COVID-19) testing center in Hansen Dam Park on March 25, 2020 in Pacoima, California.

Gretha Stenger is a former drama director from Humboldt County, California, whose photo went viral because of the sign she was holding.

At an “Open Humboldt County” protest held May 16, Stenger was photographed for a post in Redheaded Blackbelt holding a sign that implied California’s lockdown restrictions were akin to slavery and said “muzzles are for dogs and slaves.”

On the right, the sign featured an image of Escrava Anastacia — “Anastasia the Enslaved” — a female slave thought to be of African descent who lived in Brazil during the 19th century and is an unofficial saint in that country. She is always depicted in a face mask and collar.

On the left, the sign featured the words: “Muzzles are for dogs and slaves. I am a free human being.”

Stenger was born Gretha Omey Stenger in Eureka, California, according to Ancestry.

In response to a story regarding Catholic sexual abuse scandal, Stenger described herself as a Catholic and condemned the priests responsible for sexual abuse. She also praised them for “(sacrificing) their lives to serve Jesus Christ amid a climate of bigotry and unbelief; a world incapable of imagining self-control over one’s appetites.”

Our courageous Bishop Vasa has exposed the Judases who have been destroying lives and devastating souls for decades. … No heretical pope, homosexual cardinal or pedophile priest can prevail against Truth. I stand with the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that is timeless. I stand with our heroic, faithful priests who offer the hope and peace of Jesus Christ to a broken world.

Here’s what you need to know about Gretha Stenger:

Stenger Was An Actress and Drama Director

NPA Presents – "The Hamlet Question" – Act 1The Northcoast Preparatory and Performing Arts Academy and the Young Actors Guild of Arcata CA, under the direction of Dr Jean Heard Bazemore, presents "The Hamlet Question". February 1st, 2020 at the Gist Hall Theater on the campus of Humboldt State University. Director’s Notes The challenge is to create a consciousness capable of containing the…2020-04-08T12:32:18Z

In 1997, Stenger was featured in an article from Kentucky’s Courier-Journal for her role in a theater production of Dracula. She was also described as a “gifted actress” in an article praising her role in directing Don Quijote.

Stenger was also a drama director at the Northcoast Preparatory and Performing Arts Academy (NPA) in Arcata, California. She is listed as the NPA director for a performance of The Odyssey by the Young Actors’ Guild in 2011, and another article in Mad River Union listed her as the NPA director of Something Wicked Comes This Way in 2017. NPA is listed on the website as an International Baccalaureate World School chartered through California’s Humboldt County.

After Stenger’s photo went viral, the school added a message to its homepage announcing that Stenger no longer worked there. “The person being referenced in these comments is not a current employee of NPA or HCOE,” the statement read. “Her message does not reflect the views of HCOE or NPA.” HCOE is the Humboldt County Office of Education.

Stenger Says She Didn’t Make the Sign

The image of Stenger and the sign she was holding circulated until it went viral, with thousands of people reacting angrily. The woman featured in Stenger’s sign is Escrava Anastacia, an African slave forced to wear a collar and muzzle because her beauty alienated slave-owners’ wives.

Many on Twitter did their own sleuthing to discover who she was; they also identified the woman she was with, Larkin Small, who also took a turn holding the sign.

Stenger apologized for the image on May 18, telling the Times-Standard that she was regretful and that the sign was not something she had made but was something another protester had handed her:

Holding that sign up at the lockdown protest was a grave mistake and I ask forgiveness from all those who I have caused pain. As I had no sign of my own, it was handed to me by another protester and a photographer took the picture before I considered the racist implications. My intent was to take a stand for the freedom of all human persons and I mistakenly held a sign that conveyed the opposite. Please know that I respect the dignity of all people and I sincerely regret any suffering it has caused.

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