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30.10.2008 US & Canada

U.S. authorities investigate case of Palin effigy


U.S. authorities, including the Secret Service, are investigating a display that shows a likeness of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin hanging by a noose, it was reported on Wednesday.

The life-size mannequin of Palin that hung from a noose around its neck in front of a house in West Hollywood of Los Angeles has sparked a national uproar, drawing the attention of the Secret Service and upsetting politicians, the Los Angeles Times said.

The display also features a likeness of Republican presidential candidate John McCain coming out of the chimney.

Calling the display "reprehensible," Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich directed the county's legal staff to look into the matter.

He said that targeting a person based on their political affiliation with such a display could constitute a hate crime.

But most observers agreed that the display was protected speech under the First Amendment.

Offensive as it may be, the Palin doll appears to violate no law, said officials of the Secret Service, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Los Angeles City Code Enforcement Division.

"The sheriff made this clear: This is a country that has freedom of speech, and we protect that right even when we think it's idiotic and stupid and in bad taste," said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Sheriff's Department.

"If it is non-violent and doesn't cause any problems, then they have the right to do it."

The display's creator, Chad Michael Morrisette, 28, told the Los Angeles Times that it was simply a politically relevant Halloween decoration.

"If it's a political statement, it's that their politics are scary to us," Morrisette said. "This is our palette and this is our venue of expression."