Retiree paints black figure on totem pole white after neighbor’s ‘wake’ complaint

A retiree who repainted a black figure on a giant totem pole in his front yard after police received an ‘awakened’ complaint that it was racist is backed by his neighbors.

Brian Connery installed the 3-metre high decorative wooden element for his bungalow in Brantham, Suffolk earlier this summer.

But a villager objected to a sculpted figure on the post with a grinning black man with bright white teeth and a blue suit.

The anonymous local launched an investigation into a possible hate crime by contacting Suffolk Police and reporting that the figure had “racist undertones”.

Mr Connery has now painted the back white to prevent further infractions, despite widespread support from other villagers.

Police are said to have ruled they did not believe Mr Connery had committed a hate crime after questioning him and examining the totem pole which is fully visible to passing pedestrians and motorists.

A retiree repainted a black figure on a giant totem pole in his front yard after police received an 'awakened' complaint in Brantham, Suffolk

A retiree repainted a black figure on a giant totem pole in his front yard after police received an ‘awakened’ complaint in Brantham, Suffolk

A carved figure on the pole depicting a grinning black man with bright white teeth and a blue suit has now been repainted

A carved figure on the pole depicting a grinning black man with bright white teeth and a blue suit has now been repainted

A carved figure on the pole depicting a grinning black man with bright white teeth and a blue suit has now been repainted

Shotley Peninsular Nub News said officers listed it as “a potential public order violation, due to the visual display that caused alarm and distress to the public.”

The news website reported that the police suggested removing the black figure “from such obvious public opinion.”

Connery, who lives with his wife Susan and drives a pickup truck decorated with images of bison and Native American heads, confirmed he had repainted the black man’s face.

He said, ‘That’s the deal I had. All I’m saying is someone complained it was racist, and I repainted it white, and that’s it.

“The police were happy about it. Everyone was happy with it. They were happy with it before it was white.

“My neighbors have supported me. There have been 93 comments on Facebook and none of them were against me. Someone’s just awake.’

Mr Connery has now painted the back white to prevent further infractions, despite widespread support from other villagers

Mr Connery has now painted the back white to prevent further infractions, despite widespread support from other villagers

Mr Connery has now painted the back white to prevent further infractions, despite widespread support from other villagers

It is believed that Mr Connery insisted to police that his totem pole was a work of art and that he had no intention of it being perceived as racist or hateful.

The other brightly colored figures on the pole—two owls, an eagle, and a horned cow skull—have not changed.

The villager, who filed a complaint with police, told Shotley Peninsular Nub News that the depiction of the black figure was racist.

The unidentified local resident said: ‘It’s pretty obviously meant to be a Negro figure, dressed in a tuxedo and tie/bow tie, dressed as a blackface minstrel, golliwog or similar figure, so fairly 20th century.

“That’s not an American Indian symbol, nor as abstract as such symbols might be. It’s what it looks like. And it’s meant to be offensive.’

The villager also expressed concern about the alleged racist connotations of Connery sometimes waving the Confederate flag on a flagpole in his front yard.

The totem pole in Brian Connery's front yard in Brantham, Suffolk, showing the black figure he has now painted white after someone complained to police that it was racist

The totem pole in Brian Connery's front yard in Brantham, Suffolk, showing the black figure he has now painted white after someone complained to police that it was racist

The totem pole in Brian Connery’s front yard in Brantham, Suffolk, showing the black figure he has now painted white after someone complained to police that it was racist

The local resident said: ‘The yard often has flags from the south of the US associated with racism, which is borderline in itself.’

But an elderly neighbor whose house overlooks the totem pole described Mr Connery as “a nice man” and said she had “no problem” with the totem pole.

She said, ‘I’ve lived here for 65 years. It doesn’t bother me at all.’

Another passerby who declined to be named said: “You can’t miss the totem pole because it’s so big, but I never really noticed it had a black figure.

“I can see how it might upset some people, but it wouldn’t bother me. I can’t see it really matters. You get black people and you get white people.’

Mr Connery’s neighbour, who only mentioned his name as Robert said, ‘I have no complaints.

“I think he put up the totem pole a few weeks ago because he has a thing for American Indians.

“To be honest, I didn’t really notice what was on the post. If people start complaining about something like that, it’s time they got a life.’

Robert’s wife Marion said, ‘Brian has many different flags that he flies. At the moment he flies the English flag, but sometimes he has American.

“He flew the England fan during the European Football Championship and he had it at half-mast when Prince Philip died.”

Another close neighbor said, “I have nothing against his totem pole. I never paid much attention to it. I just think it’s a shame that some people complain about everything these days.’

A Suffolk Police spokesman confirmed that a complaint had been lodged.

The spokesman said: “Police are aware of citizens’ concerns and are in talks with the homeowner about the matter.”

One Facebook user said: ‘The world has gone crazy! Anyone who thinks that totem pole is racist should shake their head.’

Another added in a post: ‘Would people complain if the figure was white? No, they wouldn’t. I think it brightens up the place.”

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