Is the 'Ku Klux Klowns' Lynching Display an Effective Protest?

An art collective created the display in "protest of white nationalist uprising in the United States."


INDECLINE, an activist artist collective, created eight Ku Klux Klan effigies wearing clown costumes underneath KKK robes and hanged them from a single tree in Richmond's Joseph Bryan Park to protest white supremacy. An effigy wore a placard that read: "If Attacked By a Mob of Clowns, Go for the Juggler."

Richmond, Va., police closed the park for three hours Thursday morning and removed the effigies, according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch. The Richmond Police Department said in a statement that they are investigating the display and no arrests have been made. The department did not indicate whether laws were violated.

INDECLINE states on its website that it is not an anarchist group, but rather an American activist collective comprised of graffiti writers, photographers, filmmakers and "full-time rebels and activists."

The group, founded in 2001, says it focuses on "social, ecological and economical injustices carried out by American and International governments, corporations and law enforcement agencies."

During the 2016 presidental election, the group was responsible for placing statues of a naked Donald Trump in large cities around the country, including Los Angeles and New York.

INDECLINE said the following about what it refers to as the "Ku Klux Klowns" installation:

"It was conceptualized in the spring of 2017 in protest of the white nationalist uprising in the United States. The activation was carried out in Richmond, Va., chosen for its infamous legacy of being the capitol of the Confederate South. It was executed in what is today known as Joseph Bryan Park, the same location of the Gabriel Prosser slave rebellion in 1800."

Gabriel, also known as Gabriel Prosser, was a literate, enslaved blacksmith who attempted to lead a slave rebellion in 1800 in the Richmond area, but the plan was toppled by betrayal within his camp. As a result, Gabriel, his brothers and 23 slaves were hanged. His plan was the first major slave plot that took place in the 19th century.

The "Ku Klux Klowns" display comes almost one month after the KKK and other white supremacist groups, including neo-Nazis, held a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va., which turned deadly.

INDECLINE posted a YouTube video on Thursday showing the preparation of the effigies leading up to four masked men dressed in black hanging them in the park overnight. The audio includes snippets from a 1940s "Superman" radio show, "The Clan of the Fiery Cross," in which the superhero battles the KKK, combined with excerpts from the Klan anthem.

In a statement, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney's press secretary, Jim Nolan, said, "There are many ways to express a point of view. As a city we don't condone breaking the law to do so."

James "J.J." Minor, president of the Richmond branch of the NAACP, does not condone the display.

"When you look at something like that, whether you consider it art or not art, lynching is not something that we're in agreement with at all," Minor told the Richmond-Times Dispatch. "We do not support any groups that support violence."

Bernice Travers, president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters, the city's oldest African American voter advocacy organization, told the Dispatch that what INDECLINE "does not understand is the pain Black people endured then, and still feel today, about hangings."

An anonymous INDECLINE member told a Richmond NBC News affiliate that its displays are not "baseless, infantile vandalism" but have a "deeper meaning." The intent of the group's displays is to spark conversation and take power away from the white supremacist movement by making fun of it.

"We are hoping to dismantle this movement," the member said.

The member also said the group wanted the initial feeling when seeing the "Ku Klux Klowns" display to be "overwhelming," serving as a reminder of how African Americans were persecuted in the past.

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