The Richmond Police Department (RPD) is investigating a display at Bryan Park that took place early Thursday morning as a crime, authorities said.
An anonymous group installed eight Ku Klux Klan (KKK) effigies from various points on a single tree in the park. Each effigy was dressed in a full-body clown costume underneath their respective white robes.
Around the neck of each effigy was a placard that read the following: “‘IF ATTACKED BY A MOB OF CLOWNS, GO FOR THE JUGGLER’ — UNDERLINE.”
The group, known only to the public as INDECLINE, calls itself an “American Activist Collective.” According to the group’s website, INDECLINE was founded in 2001 and is both comprised of “graffiti writers, filmmakers, photographers and full-time rebels and activists,” as well as focused on “social, ecological and economical injustices carried out by American and international governments, corporations and law enforcement agencies.”
The website specifically states that INDECLINE is “not an anarchist group.”
INDECLINE is the group behind the Naked Donald Trump Statues, a protest series that took place in several cities across the United States in August 2016.
According to an article by Rolling Stone published after the Naked Trump series, the INDECLINE member the magazine interviewed “asked not to be identified as to protect himself against potential legal action.”
The Collegian received an email from a group claiming to be INDECLINE late Wednesday afternoon. “We have something planned for Virginia tomorrow morning," the email said. "It’s going to turn some heads.”
Early Thursday morning, The Collegian received an email from the same group announcing their latest project, and attaching photos and videos documenting the project’s installation.
“‘Ku Klux Klowns’” was conceptualized in the spring of 2017 in protest of the white nationalist uprising in the United States,” the email said. “Richmond [was] chosen for its infamous legacy of being the capitol of the Confederate South. [The project] was executed in what is today known as Joseph Bryan Park, the same location of the Gabriel Prosser slave rebellion in 1800.”
Police had closed a small section of the park off with crime scene tape by 8 a.m. Thursday morning, according to a Richmond-Times Dispatch report.
By 11 a.m., all signs of police presence in the park were gone, as well as the effigies hanging from the tree.
“I jog in the park every morning,” David Lamson-Keene, a Richmond resident, said. “[There] was a huge police presence when we entered and we didn’t know what was going on. Then we discovered that there had been some hate crimes.”
RPD is treating the effigy-hanging as a crime, Koury Wilson, an RPD public information officer said.
“[The effigies] have been removed and no arrests have been made,” she said.
Despite the fact that INDECLINE is appearing to protest the hateful actions of the KKK, a white supremacist group, Lamson-Keene said that he foresees people taking extra precautions in Bryan Park.
“I think as soon as the exposure gets out there with people understanding what actually took place [today], I think people are gonna be more cautious about coming through the park alone,” Lamson-Keene said.
Contact news editor Jocelyn Grzeszczak at firstname.lastname@example.org.