Roy, Utah, man Kevin Van Miltenberg has refused to take down part of his annual Halloween display, despite a complaint from the NAACP that it imitates the lynching of African-Americans.
"When I was making it in the first place, it never crossed my mind at all, 'Hey, one day someone might take offense to it,'" Van Miltenberg told KSL. "I don't make these to be offensive at all. I just make them for fun and for people to enjoy."
For six years, Van Miltenberg has built animatronic displays for the spooky holiday, KSL reports. The decoration in question is a 7-foot tall hanged man dressed in denim with a hood over his head. The hanged man was the first animatronic prop Van Miltenberg ever built.
“It’s been here for six years; no complaints,” Van Miltenberg said. “This is people’s No. 1 prop that they like. People take pictures with it.”
Observers were so intrigued by Van Miltenberg’s display that it ended up in an article by the Standard-Examiner featuring northern Utah Halloween attractions. That’s when a reporter called the Utah man and explained that someone had taken offense to the prop.
Rev. Stanley Ellington, president of the Ogden, Utah, chapter of the NAACP, held a meeting on Oct. 12 with fellow chapter members to discuss the prop. He told the Standard-Examiner that regardless of Van Miltenberg’s intent, the prop is offensive.
In a statement from the national office of the NAACP, the organization called the prop a “mockery” of the history of lynchings in America, and they asked Van Miltenberg to remove the display from his yard. The national office added that they would get involved if nothing was done about the situation locally.
Ellington also filed a police complaint against Van Miltenberg on Oct. 10 about the display.
However, on Oct. 13, Matthew Gwynn, the Roy City Police spokesman, said Van Miltenberg had a Constitutional right to display the prop and that it wasn't a government issue.
Van Miltenberg told KSL that no one from the NAACP has personally contacted him about the hanged man display, but he added that he does not plan on taking the prop down.
Photo Credit: Geoff Liesik/KSL-TV