Thurston Has a Noose Problem, Local News Ignores 2020 Protest

On Oct. 20, it was reported by KEZI 9 that a “Halloween decoration” was causing controversy in Springfield and, if that doesn’t sound like something new, that’s because it isn’t. 

Springfield’s Thurston neighborhood has a noose problem — but you wouldn’t know that from reading KEZI 9’s reporting. 

Instead, the Allen Media Broadcasting-owned television channel, in reporting about the “black blow-up doll dressed in overalls hanging from a tree,” said that neighbors noted “nothing this overt has ever happened in this Springfield neighborhood before.” Moreover, it was also reported that “neighbors believe much of the controversy could’ve been avoided if it was just a skeleton of a scarecrow hanging instead.”

This is simply not true. 

In reality, it was a noose for a “Halloween decoration” that led to the most violent of protests during the summer of 2020. 

On July 29, 2020, Black Unity held the now-infamous “The Noose is Nuisance” protest in response to the detainment and questioning of Kinaya Haug and Ashley Carr by Springfield Police Officer Joseph Burke the day prior. The pair had been sitting in Haug’s vehicle in front of Carr’s home observing a “skeleton hanging from a noose” hanging from a tree nearby.

That night, Black Unity’s protest was stopped by the Springfield Police Department from continuing their march, protest leaders were brutalized and/or arrested at the police barricade, and more were assaulted by counter-protesters at Jesse Maine Memorial Park where it all began. 

As a result of that night, Black Unity and the Civil Liberties Defense Center filed a still ongoing lawsuit against over 20 defendants—including the city, its police department at-large, and individual officers—alleging conspiracy between law enforcement and violent far-right counter-protesters, unlawful surveillance, excessive force, and wrongful arrest.

Naturally, when KEZI 9’s reporting was published, several people sent the article to Black Unity’s Claire Reyna. 

“Somewhere along here it’s going to mention, you know, that this wasn’t the first time that this happened,” Reyna said she continually thought while reading the article.  “Really, just because of the gravity of the July 29, 2020 protest in regards to the noose in the Thurston neighborhood… and the ongoing lawsuit against [the] Springfield Police Department, it just seemed wrong… and disrespectful.”

The omission of the previous controversy will lead many to believe that this hadn’t happened before. 

As a result, she believes this “leaves less room for accountability” for the Thurston neighborhood and its residents. “They know and they keep doing it,” she said about the neighborhood’s repeated controversies with nooses. “It was wrong to leave it out.” 

Employee turnaround within a newsroom isn’t lost on Reyna, though. 

“My other thought [while reading the article] was Connor [McCarthy] was the news anchor who used to do a lot of the protest [reporting] in 2020 and I know that he no longer works there,” she said. “You have to be, almost, ‘lucky,’ which is an unfortunate word to use in this situation, to have someone within the news world to care to bring those things up.” 

When asked about the reported neighbors’ statements that “the controversy could’ve been avoided if it was just a skeleton of a scarecrow hanging instead,” Reyna said “I just don’t understand how, in 2023, you can interpret a noose in any other way than racist, white supremacist, and [as a] white supremacy symbol.” 

“It’s just point-blank-period,” she added. “That’s what it represents.” 

Double Sided Media reached out to Springfield Mayor Sean VanGordon and the city manager’s office for a statement, and specifically asked two questions: 

  • “Why does this appear to be a repetitive issue in the city considering this happened in July 2020 that led to an indisputably violent protest?”
  • “What can the city do about potentially offensive and/or harmful decorations?”

In response, Springfield Assistant City Manager Niel Laudati said: 

“The City of Springfield takes any form of racism or discrimination very seriously.  We responded swiftly and pro-actively following the initial report and the offensive decoration was quickly removed. We want our residents to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods and we thank those who reported this incident. The City remains committed to creating an inclusive environment for all members of our community, regardless of race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

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