NEW YORK Hundreds of demonstrators rallied to boycott the New York Post on Thursday, branding the newspaper as racist for publishing a cartoon that appeared to compare President Barack Obama to a chimpanzee.
Demonstrators led by civil rights activist Al Sharpton chanted "End racism now!" outside the parent company's skyscraper in midtown Manhattan and called for the jailing of Rupert Murdoch, whose international media conglomerate News Corp owns the Post.
The newspaper has defended the cartoon as a parody of Washington politics, but Sharpton said it exploited a potent image in the history of racism towards blacks.
Published on Wednesday, it shows police shooting an ape and plays on the real shooting of a pet chimpanzee that went on a rampage in Connecticut this week.
One of the police officers says, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."
Because Obama promoted the $787 billion (550 billion pound) economic stimulus that he signed into law on Tuesday, critics of the cartoon interpreted the dead chimp as a reference to Obama, who became the first black U.S. president on January 20.
"I guess they thought we were chimpanzees," Sharpton said. "They will find out we are lions."
Sharpton said he would meet with advertisers to encourage them to pull their ads and said New Yorkers would boycott the newspaper.
"You would have to be in a time warp or in a whole other world not to know what that means," said demonstrator Charles Ashley, 25, a model who did not believe the cartoon was an innocent political joke.
Others said it made light of assassinating Obama, a possibility they said that worries many African-Americans.
"Just the fact that they put a monkey with gunshot wounds in his chest, it gives the idea of an assassination," said Peter Aviles, 48, a building superintendent.
Police in Stamford, Connecticut, shot and killed a 200-pound (90-kg) chimpanzee on Monday after the pet nearly killed its owner's friend and attacked a police car. The chimp, named Travis, had once starred in television commercials and was taking medication for Lyme disease.
New York Post Editor-in-Chief Col Allan said in a statement the cartoon "broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy."
(Editing by Daniel Trotta and David Wiessler)