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Activists gathered outside a downtown strip club Monday to denounce as racist a banner depicting President Obama as the Joker from Batman.

“Not only is it an attack on the president, but also on all men and people of African descent,” King Salim Khalfani, president of the Virginia NAACP, said of what he called “the abomination that’s on the wall” outside Club Velvet.

The banner, unfurled within the past few days, depicts Obama as Heath Ledger’s grotesque Joker character from “The Dark Knight.” The president is shown with smeared red lipstick, a white face and darkened eyes. The word “socialism” is spelled out below the caricature.

Dancer Kaitlyn McGee handed out a statement from club owner Sam Moore, who did not appear. The statement described him as a “staunch libertarian” and said the banner was intended to show his displeasure with Obama’s policies. McGee walked through the crowd with a sign that read “Strippers 4 Obama” to show that Moore is not opposed to the president himself.

“Mr. Moore would like to say that anyone who believes that his banner is racist is an ignoramus,” it read.

But the activists said the Joker banner was typical of what they called escalating attacks on the president — from depictions of Obama as Hitler at rallies to South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” outburst during Obama’s recent nationally televised address to Congress.

“Racism is as American as apple pie,” Khalfani said. “The presence of a president that as African blood is very, very troublesome to many in this country.”

McGee, who described herself as a waitress and dancer, said customers had not complained since the banner was unfurled at the busy intersection in Shockoe Bottom, a historic entertainment and residential district.

“As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t really bother me,” she said. “You could say a lot worse things about him.”

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