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Jana Hollingsworth, Forum Communications, Published November 09 2012

Obama effigy in Duluth called ‘terroristic threat’

DULUTH, Minn. – Claudie Washington, representing the Duluth chapter of the NAACP, called the effigy of President Barack 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 of 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.

Jana Hollingsworth writes for the Duluth News Tribune