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Activists call Obama effigy in Duluth a terrorist threat, hate crime

Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune –

Claudie Washington, representing the Duluth chapter of the NAACP, called the effigy of President Obama hung from a noose both a terroristic threat and a hate crime, and he called on law enforcement authorities to prosecute it as such.

Washington led a news conference Friday at the site where the effigy was hung from an electronic billboard near the Miller Hill Mall on Tuesday — Election Day. Standing with Washington were members of the black community and members of the American Indian Commission.

The effigy, about 3 feet tall with an Obama mask, was removed by police shortly after being reported by a passerby.

Washington said he was shocked that something like this happened so far north and in a city that had experienced actual lynchings.

“I am troubled by the fact that at a time when America was electing, making history by giving a second term to an African American president … that someone would perpetrate this type of crime,” he said.

“I consider this a terroristic threat against the president of the United States as well as against every African American in this state and in this country. The persons who did this, I believe that’s what they had in mind: terrorizing people. As it was done by the KKK when they burnt the cross or (when) they left the noose.”

Duluth police have been in touch with both the FBI and the Secret Service, said Officer Russ Bradley, spokesman for Duluth Police Department.

“We are investigating it as a criminal act,” he said.

Department representatives are also meeting with communities of color, he said. He had no information on possible charges or suspects Friday.

Washington said he’s been in touch with Duluth police, federal investigators and the Secret Service.

The incident is traumatizing to the community, said Janet Haynes, speaking at the news conference.

“This city had a lynching of three innocent black men,” she said, referring to the 1920 lynchings of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie, circus workers who were wrongly accused of raping a Duluth girl. “Today, to be faced with that, it cannot be seen lightly.”

Haynes said she doesn’t believe the act reflects the majority of Duluthians, but that it’s still a threat to the community as a whole.

“As black people in this city, we live with people who would rather us not be here,” she said. “We work with people who would rather us not be there. Our children learn in environments that are very hostile. Nonetheless, we are not passing through temporarily. This is our home. We’re not with the circus. It is important we all live together.”

The Secret Service has investigated incidents in which effigies of Obama were hung in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and California, according to news reports.

A News Tribune reporter’s message left with a representative from the Minnesota field office of the Secret Service was not returned Friday afternoon.

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