HOUSTON -- Photos circulating in local social media purport to show an effigy of President Obama hanging from a noose near a Houston-area gas station. The effigy and political protest are real. But the alleged locations are not.
Celestino Perez of Pasadena received the photo from a cousin who lives in Waller County. He says she believed the image of a mannequin made to look like the President was actually hanging outside a Shell station in Hockley.
"I was just appalled,” he said. “And obviously it still shows that racism is still alive and well."
Other KHOU 11 viewers emailed us the same picture telling us they had been told it was an effigy hanging at a gas station in Sugar Land.
But the image is actually from North Carolina and has nothing to do with a gas station at all.
A man named V.R. Phipps constructed what he calls his “Mobile Gallows.” He has been trying to get officials in his state to investigate the shooting death of a family member. And his solution to draw political attention was to create a trailer with a half dozen mannequins hanging from nooses. Phipps has driven the trailer throughout North Carolina, and even as far as New York City, in the last three years. He says the effigies represent his local sheriff, his local judge and even the Governor of North Carolina because he claims they refuse to investigate the death. A few months ago he added an effigy of President Obama because, he says, a federal investigation has been denied as well.
“You tell me it's racism,” Phipps says in a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 17,000 times. “Well I tell you it's not. It's absolutely not."
"We did not want to do this,” he says seated on the trailer next to the half dozen mannequins. “Mr. Barack Obama can get his mannequin down any time he wants to but it’s a federal investigation that we're after."
“Well this is a bad joke if it was a joke,” said Shell station attendant Allan Alvarez in Pasadena who said they have not received any backlash from the photo circulating the Internet. In the photo from North Carolina, Phipps parked his trailer near a Shell station which can be seen in the background.
“But for sure it doesn’t have anything to do with us,” said Alvarez.
“Even if it's hoax or no hoax, whatever statement the person was trying to make, it's just unacceptable,” said Perez.