A Pennsylvania homeowner put up a display in his or her front yard showing a Confederate flag and a black baby hanging from a noose, with a knife in its back, outraging the neighbors, WTAE (Pittsburgh) is reporting.
Rachel Szolek says she was driving down Porter Road in the West Overton Village section of East Huntingdon Township (about 30 miles from Pittsburgh) Tuesday night when she noticed the display. She had to turn around her car to fully grasp what she was seeing.
“We actually turned around because we had passed the house, and there it was, and the first thing was shock.”
Szolek wants to make it clear that she doesn’t think the neighbor is breaking any laws, but she wants him or her to do the right thing, even if that means getting the town government involved.
“I just hope he has to take it down. That’s all I want, you know. I don’t care, I don’t want him punished. I just want him to take it down so we don’t have to look at it.”
You can see the display in the video below, but be warned: this video contains content that may be disturbing to some readers.
WTAE reporter Beau Berman knocked on the door of the home where the confederate flag and noose were displayed, and no one answered. When he drove by again a few minutes later, it had been taken down.
It’s unclear, as of this writing, how long the display had been up before it was taken down. Officials in nearby Scottdale Borough had been hearing about the display “for months” but were unable to do anything about it since the home was outside of their jurisdiction. East Huntington Township, which does have jurisdiction over the property, was apparently not aware of the display – at least, as far as East Huntingdon Township’s supervisor Paul Hodgkiss is concerned.
“[I’m] definitely against anything like that in our township.”
Hodgkiss said he only learned of the display on Tuesday afternoon — from another neighbor, not Szolek.
And there’s little Hodgkiss, or the township at large, can do about the display, either.
“It probably is allowed to be there at his property, but if we can do anything to stop it we will.”
The problem is the First Amendment, which states that the government cannot restrict your right to freedom of expression — within certain limitations. And racist yard displays are not one of those limitations.
In fact, gross, racist, disturbing, or otherwise offensive yard displays pop up in the news from time to time, and in almost all cases, there is little to nothing town governments can do to put a stop to them.
At Fort Campbell in Kentucky in 2014, according to this Inquisitr report, a Halloween display that included a family, black bags draped over their heads and hanging from trees, struck some in the community as offensive and racist.
— Annyah L Hasler (@anyalhas) January 11, 2015
In that case, the home was on military property, and the Army was able to force the occupants of the home to take down the display.
And last Halloween, in Parma, Ohio, a family’s Halloween display was supposedly so gruesome that neighborhood kids were terrified, according to this Inquisitr report.
Purim displays don’t come close…
Ohio family’s gruesome Halloween decorations controversy http://t.co/sf6JsdTFwl pic.twitter.com/Mjadyaeb8B
— Malei Rikud (@MaleiRikud) October 9, 2015
Neighbors complained to the town government, but there was nothing that could be done, since the display was on private property and was, and is, protected free speech.
Do you believe the Pennsylvania display was offensive? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Shutterstock/Valentin Agapov]