Halloween effigy of Palin removed from house

Abdulrahim and Blankstein are Times staff writers.

After days of nationwide controversy, a West Hollywood homeowner has removed an effigy of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin that was hanging from a noose off the side of his house.

ChadMichael Morrisette, a professional window display designer who set up the life-size mannequin of Palin, said Wednesday evening that he had met with West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang and decided it was best to remove the decoration.

“There was a huge mob scene,” Morrisette said of the onlookers -- and protesters -- the display attracted. “The whole thing became a life of its own.”

Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said that Morrisette and his partner invited Prang into their home for a “heart-to-heart” about the display after a man parked in front of their home, his black truck bearing a male dummy wearing a noose and T-shirt that read, “Chad, how does it feel?”


Earlier in the day, about half a dozen residents went to the home on North Orange Grove Avenue and held up light blue sheets, trying to block the mannequin from the view of passing motorists, Whitmore said. Morrisette said his neighbors were mostly concerned that the Palin effigy would cast a bad light on the city’s gay community. The display includes a mock-up of presidential candidate John McCain sitting in a chimney surrounded by paper flames.

“They told us, ‘We respect you as artists, we’re just concerned about the effect on the community,’ ” Morrisette said. “I don’t resent them. I’m not angry at them. I respect their rights.”

Also Wednesday, a city official delivered to Morrisette an inch-thick collection of e-mails about the effigy from hundreds of people. Jake Stevens, an aide to the mayor, said the city assigned extra staffers to answer phone calls from around the country.

Morrisette and his partner, Mito Aviles, said they set up the display three weeks ago. They said they decided to insert a little politics into their Halloween decorating because the holiday occurs days before the presidential election.


But a news report this week sparked a national uproar, drawing the attention of the Secret Service; upsetting politicians, including one local official who called for a hate crime investigation; and prompting MSNBC host Keith Olbermann on Monday to dub Morrisette “today’s worst person in the world.”

The Palin campaign declined to comment on the controversy.

The mannequin, outfitted with beehive wig, glasses and a red coat dress -- appeared to violate no law, said officials of the Secret Service, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the West Hollywood city code enforcement division.

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition and a free-speech expert, said the Palin display would fall under protected speech, as long as it was not made with the intent of inciting violence.


But Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization of Women, said she believed the Palin display was particularly unacceptable because of its depiction of violence.

“It is a shock to the senses for those of us who work to stop violence against women to see such a public depiction of violence,” she said. “This has no place in a civilized dialogue. If you oppose Sarah Palin’s policies, say why you oppose them.”



Times staff writer Victoria Kim contributed to this report.