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Halloween decoration or depiction of a lynching? Figure stirs controversy in Lansing

Halloween decoration or depiction of a lynching? Figure stirs controversy in Lansing


LANSING — A T.F. South student felt afraid and her mother, Toya Griffin, was offended Wednesday after the student came upon a figure that appeared to depict a lynching while walking to school, Griffin said.

Lansing spokesman Ken Reynolds said the figure was a Halloween decoration, was not intended to depict a lynching and was taken down shortly after it was reported to police.

Griffin, 37, of Lansing, said she was talking on the phone with her daughter, a sophomore at Thornton Fractional South High School, when her daughter first saw the figure.

The girl was unable to describe what she had seen, and initially rejected Griffin's suggestion she take a photo of it because she feared whomever put it up would target her in the future, Griffin said.

"She was like, 'No, no, they're going to see me taking a picture of this.' She's like, 'I got to walk to school every day,'" Griffin said.

Griffin's daughter eventually did send her a picture of the figure, which appeared to be a black body hanged in a tree. 

"The hands were tied behind the back. The feet were tied around the ankles," Griffin said. "It's the same manner as a lynching."

Reynolds said the homeowner had many other Halloween decorations in the yard, and the figure initially included a "Jason"-style hockey mask. The mask apparently was stolen at some point, exposing a black garbage bag that was used to create the head, he said.

"There was absolutely no racial intent here of any kind," Reynolds said.

The homeowner told The Times she didn't intend to offend anyone, and an African-American neighbor said she didn't believe the homeowner had any racial intent. The figure was on the homeowner's front porch when The Times spoke with her.

Griffin said she didn't understand why someone would not anticipate the figure could be seen as offensive and culturally insensitive.

"It's a shocking feeling to see something like that. It represents a feeling. It represents a belief. It represents a harsh time in history that affected everybody," Griffin said. "If you see something like that, it brings a fear and it brings emotions."

She also said she was frustrated a police supervisor initially told her it was a Halloween decoration and he didn't see anything wrong with it.

"OK, what does Halloween have to do with lynching?" she said. "This is not a scarecrow. This is not a witch."

Reynolds said police initially were not given an address of the figure. When officers learned where it was, the supervisor was among those who spoke with the homeowner and residents.

The figure was taken down within 20 minutes after police arrived, he said.


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