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Obama Effigy in Moreno Valley Prompts Secret Service Visit

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Resident hung effigy of President Obama in a noose in front yard

By Chris Levister

When an unidentified Moreno Valley resident posted a photograph on Facebook of a Halloween decoration portraying President Obama hanging by a noose, he knew it would stir the pot on race in America. But little did he know that the life-sized dummy with an Obama mask would prompt the Secret Service to visit his neighbor Eddie Million.

According to Million the Obama effigy that hung in his front yard was meant as a harmless prank. But the Secret Service said it could be seen as a threat against the president.

Million who neighbors say harbors a ‘deep hatred for President Obama’ admits the display was a bad idea, and he has since taken it down.

Million who was questioned by Secret Service agents on Tuesday, October 23, could not be reached for comment. According to the Riverside Press Enterprise Million called the incident a “joke” and a “misunderstanding”

“This is getting all blown out of proportion. It’s down. It’s gone. We didn’t want to hurt the president,” Million, who is White, said after agents questioned him. “It was just for a party.” Million wasn’t arrested. Free speech advocates and civil rights defenders rushed to weigh in on this the latest incident of disrespect against President Obama.

Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California says Americans have the right to make political statements “whether or not they are considered disrespectful.”

A similar effigy of Sarah Palin surfaced in West Hollywood just before the 2008 election. The homeowner took it down after protesters covered it up.

Experts on hate speech and hate groups call the Moreno Valley incident another in a series of many against the nation’s first Black president.

During the 2008 presidential campaign Tea Party activist and Orange County Republican Central Committee member Marilyn Davenport came under fire for forwarding an e-mail depicting President Barack Obama and his parents as chimpanzees with a caption that reads "Now you know why-No birth certificate!"

Law enforcement data show threats against a new president historically spike right after an election, but from Maine to Idaho law enforcement officials saw more against Barack Obama than ever before.

The Secret Service would not comment this week or provide the number of cases they are investigating. But since the 2008 Nov. 4 election, law enforcement officials have seen more potentially threatening writings, Internet postings and other activity directed at Obama than has been seen with any past president said officials aware of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue of a president's security is so sensitive.

From fingers in the face, to people questioning his already established and proven citizenship, the very public nature of disrespect towards President Obama is noteworthy said Mark Potok, senior fellow of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Montgomery, Ala., The nonprofit organization tracks and exposes hate groups.

In an interview Potok, one of the country's leading experts on hate groups said he expects the rage to grow and the number of hate groups to continue to rise if President Obama is re-elected.

“I think it has the potential to get worse before it gets better,” Potok said. “As the polls show Mr. Obama out polling in critical battleground states, these groups are getting angrier and angrier. They’re looking at the prospect of four more years under a black guy who they hate.”

Potok said that the day after President Obama was elected there were so many new people expressing interest in white supremacist groups that websites for some of those groups actually crashed. Among the groups mentioned by Potok, who serves as director of publications at the SPLC, were Stormfront, a popular online message board for the white supremacist movement, and the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), which has been called "the white-collar Klan."

In September 2009, as the President spoke to a joint session of Congress, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), yelled out “you lie” at President Obama. No one could remember a similar incident happening before.

In December 2010 Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell announced in a public speech that, “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” Typically that type of statement is made in a political strategy session.

In January 2012, Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer put her finger in the President’s face like an adult might do to a teenager. Brewer said she felt “a little threatened” by President Obama.

I am particularly sensitive to the fact that only this president, only this president, only this one, has received these kinds of smears, attacks and disagreements… only this one… read between the lines,” said Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D-TX).

Abraham Lincoln concluded his first Inaugural Address in 1861 by expressing confidence that the "better angels" of the American psyche would one day prevail over racism. But as the country considers re-electing its first Black President new academic evidence suggests that the demons of unconscious racism still hold startlingly powerful sway.

A new Associated Press poll presents strong evidence that even people who aspire to tolerance — who would consider themselves nonracist — still harbor unconscious biases powerful enough to prevent them from confronting overt racists or from being upset by other people's racist behavior.

In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-Black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial-attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-Black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-Black attitudes fell.

Obama has treaded cautiously on the subject of race, but many African Americans have talked openly about perceived antagonism toward them since Obama took office.

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