A resident of Roy, Utah said this week he doesn’t understand why an animatronic dummy of a lynched man was considered an offensive addition to his Halloween decorations.
Kevin Van Miltenberg told KSL, the local NBC affiliate, on Tuesday that he won’t take the display down until after Oct. 31, despite complaints from the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“When I was making it in the first place it never crossed my mind that one day somebody might take offense to it,” Van Milternberg said. “I don’t make these to be offensive at all. I just make them for fun and for people to enjoy.”
The 7-foot tall, lifelike figure has its hands tied behind its back and a white hood over its head. Small motors inside of the dummy make it jerk wildly, imitating a human body’s spasms.
Rev. Stanley Ellington, president of the NAACP’s chapter in Ogden, Utah, told KSL that he first learned about the dummy after seeing it featured in a local news story about Halloween attractions. Concerned, he contacted the group’s national chapter, which issued a statement calling for the dummy’s removal.
“The NAACP finds the hanging character to be extremely offensive,” read the statement, which was quoted in an article in Utah’s Standard-Examiner newspaper. “There is no doubt what this is. The founding in 1909 and history of the NAACP was because of the many lynchings in our country and has become synonymous with the lynchings of African Americans. This display makes a mockery of the history of lynchings in our country.”
Ellington told KSL he also contacted local police, who paid a visit to Van Miltenberg’s home.
Roy police spokesman Matthew Gwynn told KSL that the department determined “this is not a government issue.”
Van Miltenberg said in his interview with KSL that this is the sixth year he’d displayed the hanged man in his yard, and he’d never received a complaint before. The dummy hangs alongside skeletons, cobwebs, and other Halloween decorations.
“This is people’s No. 1 prop that they like,” Van Miltenberg said. “People take pictures with it. They take videos with it.”
Van Miltenberg pointed to the dummy’s white skin tone as evidence that he did not mean for it to evoke the lynching of a black man.
“In no way did I make it in a racist context,” he said. “By no means am I a racist.”
Watch the KSL report below: