PENDLETON — Pendleton Hat Co. owner Perk Perkinson removed a noose and poster that decorated the walls of his South Main Street store, but he maintains it had nothing to do with racism.

In early July, photos began circulating on social media of the wall-mounted items, which were hung inside the store but were visible from the exterior.

The poster depicts a pair of disembodied legs and cowboy boots suspended in the air with a Stetson hat lying on the ground, suggesting the subject of the poster had been hung. “Never steal a Stetson,” the poster states. Although the poster doesn’t directly depict a noose, a real rope noose was draped around the poster, acting as a border to the illustration.

In a July 9 interview, Perkinson said he took down the poster and noose after he started receiving complaints, but he still thinks the people upset with the display were mistaken.

“It had nothing to do with racism,” he said. “It had nothing to do with Black Lives Matter.”

Perkinson said the decorations were meant to fit in with the Western theme of the store, and questioned whether he could still watch Western movies where people were hung.

According to the NAACP, 4,743 people were lynched across the United States between 1882 and 1968. Nearly three-quarters of the victims were Black.

In the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd, people have reported finding nooses across the country. In one incident, Milwaukee residents found laminated cards of figures like Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner hanging from a tree in a public park.

Having operated Pendleton Hat Co. since 2016, Perkinson said he can’t remember when he first put up the poster and noose, but he added that he never received a complaint about it until recently.

Perkinson said the ordeal could have been avoided if the people offended by the poster and noose went into the shop and talked to him personally. But the photos of the noose quickly spreading on social media was just an attempt to make the issue political in an election year, Perkinson said.

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