Concern over San Jose Boy Scouts' upside-down Christmas tree display as rope resembles noose

Amanda del Castillo Image
Friday, December 13, 2019
SJ Christmas tree display sparks concern as rope resembles noose
Among the hundreds of trees filling San Jose Christmas in the Park, the Boy Scouts' Troop 13's display is stirring up a bit of controversy, curiosity and even concern.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Trees are up and families are out in Downtown San Jose. Among the hundreds of trees filling Christmas in the Park, one is stirring up a bit of controversy, curiosity and even concern.

ABC7 News viewers shared their concerns over a tree display by Boy Scouts of America, Troop 13.

On Thursday, Christmas in the Park visitors stopped to share their thoughts with us.

"First thing that came to mind was, 'Why is it upside down,'" Darren McGee asked. "Second thing was, 'Why is there a noose?'"

"This is where you bring your kids out," another guest told ABC7 News. "You definitely don't want to explain the history of it."

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The display includes an inverted tree hanging by a knot -- one that resembles a noose. A string of red lights lead visitors to someone buried beneath.

But why?

"I would like to know if there's any significance behind why it's decorated this way," Roxanne Tuttle said. "Depending on what that answer is, if there's an uproar, there's an uproar. But I think it's just different."

We reached out to Boy Scouts of America, Troop 13.

Committee chair, Bryan Hickey explained the Troop was founded on Halloween 1939.

He said every year, they take on a Halloween theme for their Christmas in the Park display, and oftentimes the tree is hung.

Hickey shared photos from 2018, which showed the Troop's display involving another inverted Christmas tree. In 2016, a picture shared with ABC7 News shows the tree upright, again adorned with Halloween decorations.

When asked about the rope resembling a noose, Hickey said it's a knot tying the tree to the structure.

Christine Scholberg pointed out, "That's a Boy Scout knot right? But it has such a racial significance. You should probably make a different choice, at least in the knot."

"I absolutely do not mind controversy at all," McGee said. "Like, if somebody wants to make a statement with a tree -- I just don't think this is the statement they thought they were making."

Visitors said, while the design may be harmless holiday fun to some, it ignores the hateful symbolism.

"I'm 100% willing to give them the benefit of the doubt," McGee told ABC7 News. "I don't feel like San Jose is a place where people tend to regularly hang nooses. I just think people maybe need to pay attention a little more to what's going on around them and understand that this could be taken definitely the wrong way."

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McGee added, "Clearly, it's a zombie tree. But an upside-down tree hanging by a noose maybe is politically tone-deaf right now."

Hickey said someone will be back this weekend to post a sign that should explain the design to visitors.

He said the Troop could possibly soften up the knot during the visit as well.