Intended as a Halloween display, WFO Dozing, a demolition contracting business in Bastrop, propped one of its bulldozers along Lovers Lane with its claw raised and a hay-filled body hanging from its edge. The body has a black rag over its head and black gloves, leading many passersby to interpret the effigy as a lynching.
The claw initially had the word “ANYTHING” handwritten across it followed by the business’ phone number. After the display garnered anger from some residents, on Monday night the business changed the message on the claw to “Sorry … Not Sorry!” and put up a sign near the display that reads “Don’t be a Karen.”
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Chris Sievert, owner of WFO Dozing, said the display is not meant to be a Black person. He said it’s an exhibit of himself being hanged from the bulldozer, and it was meant to attract people to his business.
“It’s all my clothes and my work gloves and everything I wear around there,” said Sievert, a Bastrop native. “There’s no color of skin to be seen, so how can they determine the color of the person if all they’re seeing is my work gloves and the helmet bag over the head. They can’t see the hair, they can’t see (their skin) color.”
Cheryl Lee, a Bastrop native who is the co-chair of the Bastrop County’s Confederate Monument Relocation Committee, said whether it is a suicide or a lynching, the display is inappropriate.
“Why would someone think it’s appropriate to display suicide as Halloween decor, as he’s trying to justify it,” Lee said. “That alone is disturbing, and the fact that he is bold enough to put it up but not bold enough to acknowledge it’s true representation — lynching — should cause alarm for everyone in this community.”
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This year, the Monument Relocation Committee successfully received the Commissioners Court’s blessing to remove a couple of Confederate monuments from Bastrop County Courthouse lawn. The court has identified a new home for the monuments but they have not yet been moved.
“It’s blatant racism and it should not be allowed or tolerated in our community,” Lee said of the company’s display.
Some residents have also voiced displeasure by how close WFO Dozing’s display, which has been up since Thursday, is to Gateway D.A.E.P School, an alternative school for intermediate and high school students. The school’s baseball field is around the corner, and players on the field are able to see the display.
“It’s not baseball season so there aren’t any students,” Sievert said. “And the school over there is a gateway school, it’s where the kids that tried to burn down the high school, who have stolen, robbed, steal — done all kinds of (expletive) — are at. They’re all in trouble, they’ve been kicked out of school, so they’re at that gateway school where they’re wearing white and treated like prisoners. So, I assure you that they ain’t worried about my Halloween (display).”
Sievert said he was just trying to draw attention to his business and he dressed the hay-filled body as himself “hanging out there.”
“And, you know, it’s funny. When people come by, I guess, these people, they just see what they want to see, and I can’t help that,” he said.
“It was nothing about color, it’s supposed to look like me,” Sievert continued. “For Halloween I was going to hang myself, that’s what it’s supposed to look like.”
Several residents have expressed unease and anger about the display on social media, where it began spreading through networks and neighborhood community pages. Bastrop County police visited WFO Dozing, but since it is a private business on private land, Sievert said officers did not take any action.
“They said they didn’t see anything wrong,” Sievert recalled. “They said as long as they don’t cross my fence, once they get on my property that’s trespassing.”
Bastrop County Sheriff Maurice Cook did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
Sievert’s attorney, Mark Brochstin, said it’s a festive decoration, and with Halloween just around the corner, people can decorate however they please.
“It’s strictly Halloween,” Brochstin said. “It’s got nothing to do with a Black person, that’s where their head is, I suppose, because he’s explained that to the protesters and they’re just not listening. They’re not looking, and they’re not hearing.”
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‘This is not a fantasy’
Michele Anderson, a Bastrop resident, first saw a photo of Sievert’s display on Facebook several days ago. Then she saw it again a few days later, and was shocked by how it had not been taken down by then. So, she paid a visit to WFO Dozing’s property to see it for herself.
In a video she took while she was there, she asked Sievert: “What does it represent, like what is it?”
He answered: “It’s just a hanging person that hung himself off that stool. I don’t understand what the deal is, he hung himself. When they hang people they put a black rag over their head.”
Anderson, a legal adviser for a manufacturing company in Cedar Park, said she is distraught.
“When I got back home I was so disturbed by it,” she said. “I was like, ‘When is it ever OK to have the representation of anyone hanging, whether it be a Black person or anybody else?’”
Then she started reflecting on the history of lynching.
“You know, for African Americans and people who have been lynched throughout history, hanging signifies lynching. Period,” she said. “Halloween is supposed to conjure up images of fantasy-type stuff. This is not a fantasy, this is stuff that lives in our history and our legacy, and is a horrific reminder for a great many of our residents.”
Sievert said he intended to be festive, not inflame aggravation from the community.
“The ones who I hurt their feelings, I apologize I hurt your feelings,” he said. “It wasn’t my intention at all. And so, there’s nothing we can do about how people feel.”
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