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Hanging Halloween Display Offends, Prompts Community Discussion

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(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A yard display meant to capture the spirit of Halloween ended up offending many in a St. Paul neighborhood.

The display featured two mannequins hanging from nooses. The full-sized mannequins had black bags over their heads. The homeowner says it represents two ghosts he claims haunt his home, but others say it brings up painful feelings.

The homeowner says he didn’t mean any racial malice with his Halloween display. He says he hung the mannequins to scare his friends during a party.

Unfortunately, the image of the dolls was inappropriate to many who saw them.

“When I look at those ropes I wonder: who is next?” said the Rev. Darryl Spence, of the St. Paul God Squad.

Just looking at the ropes hanging from the tree brings back painful memories for Spence.

“Even knowing that they were not human sent a chill up my spine that was just something I will never forget,” he said.

Spence was joined by three other members of the faith community, and all were appalled by what they saw, and even more upset by the message they believe it sends.

“It’s got to be made very plain that this is just not acceptable, whether it’s a Trayvon Martin [costume], or whether it’s police officers dressing up as Somalis, or whether is somebody hanging somebody from a tree — no matter what color they are. Lynching should never be acceptable or an acceptable form of humor,” said James Thomas, of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.

This neighborhood has been through something similar.

A few years back, just two blocks away, a cross was burned in front of a black church.

“And all we ever hear is ‘I didn’t know. I didn’t understand. It didn’t…when I hung them up…I wasn’t meaning to be offensive,’” Spence said.

The homeowner did apologize, he met with the concerned group and showed them the dolls. He admits it was ignorance on his part, not knowing he would offend others by trying to scare his friends.

“Then you have to accept his apology, but there are three things that make a great apology: one is to acknowledge wrong, two is to admit that you hurt somebody, and three is to say what I’m going to do to not hurt you again,” Thomas said.

St. Paul Police showed up and helped cut down the dolls. They say the homeowner did not commit a crime.

But he did is spark a conversation. It will be one of the topics at a community forum on Nov. 19.

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