05:51 GMT +310 December 2019
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    INDECLINE Artist collective hangs Ku Klux Klowns exhibit in Richmond, Virginia

    Ku Klux Klowns: Artists Lynch Clowns Dressed as Klansmen in Virginia Park

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    Police had to shut down Joseph Bryan Park in Richmond, Virginia, Thursday after a secretive activist art collective hung eight effigies of clowns dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes from a tree there.

    The dangling figures wore large shoes, rainbow-colored wigs, and Klan hoods.

    Four masked people wearing black can be seen assembling and hanging the "Ku Klux Klowns" overnight in a video released by the INDECLINE artist group. The collective explained in a news release that the piece was put up in "protest of the White Nationalist uprising in the United States."

    The collective said it chose Richmond for its latest installation because of the city’s historical significance – Richmond was the site of a famed slave rebellion in 1800 led by Gabriel Prosser – and because of its "infamous legacy of being the capital of the Confederate South."
     ​

    One of the clowns had a sign hung around its neck that read, "If attacked by a mob of clowns, go for the juggler – INDECLINE."

    Established in 2001, the group is known for its provocative and controversial art installations. It was behind the statues depicting a nude Donald Trump that popped up in Las Vegas, New York and other large cities before the 2016 presidential election. Last March, they covered up stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with the names of African-Americans slain by US police.

    ​The exhibit’s message seemed to be lost on some local leaders, who expressed disapproval of the imagery.

    Richmond NAACP President James "J.J." Minor told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that  "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."

    ​"We do not support any groups that support violence," he said.

    Bernice Travers, who heads Richmond’s oldest African-American voter advocacy group, the Richmond Crusade for Voters, found INDECLINE’s work to be tone deaf to the history of racial violence in the US. The group "does not understand… the pain black people endured then, and still feel today, about hangings," she told the local newspaper.

    Richmond Police spokeswoman Chelsea Rarrick said that officers removed the effigies and are investigating. No arrests have been made and it isn’t clear whether any laws were broken by the installation.

    The "Klowns" art piece comes a month after groups of white supremacists descended upon the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, Virginia, ostensibly to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and engaged in violent clashes with leftist counter protesters.

    Heather Heyer, 32, died when a man thought to have ties with the Vanguard America white nationalist group allegedly drove his car into a group of unsuspecting counter-demonstrators during the rally.

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