Hanging man figurine causes controversy

January 28, 2008 5:46:19 PM PST
Art or hate speech; one Triangle community is calling a hanging man display, racist intimidation.

It is a wired, scarecrow-like figurine, suspended from three pieces of wood off of Pittsboro Moncure Road in Chatham County.

"It's a threat to community tranquility," neighbor Billy Brooks said. "It's white, black and mixed up everywhere! And nobody's bothering anybody and then he comes in here and starts all of this mess."

Residents on Pittsboro Moncure Road say a new neighbor whom they have never met, hung a figurine that conjures up painful memories of racist intimidation.

"Somebody come in here and move in like this, it seems like to me he's just trying to start trouble and we are not going to stand for this," Brooks said.

On Sunday, the top-hatted, mustachioed, suit and booted display, suspended from a tripod structure. It was taken down by a sheriff's deputy, but not because of racist undertones.

"Even though it was on the driveway we believe to be the property owner's, it was on the right of way and it was causing a traffic problem," Maj. Gary Blankenship with the Chatham County Sheriff's Office said.

Neither Eyewitness News nor the sheriff's office have been able to speak with the property owner about the display. At this point no one knows the purpose or the message intended.

There are other displays on the property that could be seen as art, still the sheriff's office and neighbors agree on one thing.

"We believe it was a little distasteful," Blankenship added.

Deputies say they will give the display back to the owner and he can hang it anywhere on his property he wants as long as it does not obstruct traffic and it's not meant to intimidate.

Neighbors first noticed displays on the property owner's yard in October, when they say he moved there.

Authorities say the art has to purposely incite racial intimidation to be considered a hate crime.


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