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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Papa Murphy’s Pizza in Hamburg in Lexington is under fire after this video was posted to social media Saturday night. It shows a woman asking an employee what the Halloween decorations displayed are and the worker replying they’re nooses. Ebonee Plowden says she was just trying to pick up some dinner for her kids when this happened. She says she cancelled her order and stepped out of the store, but says when she walked back in to record what she saw, the employees and other customers laughed at her.

“Why’d you feel that it was acceptable?” says Plowden. “You went out of your way to make these items, they weren’t store-bought items, they didn’t come from a Halloween store, they didn’t come from the Halloween decoration aisle in Walmart or anything like that, you went out of your way to use whatever you had in the store to make these and hung them up as if it was acceptable and it wasn’t.”

Word of the noose decorations spread quickly and a handful of central Kentucky activists gathered outside the business Monday night to support Plowden.

“What this is, is individuals like-minded that are standing together and saying that any injustice, any type of disrespect, there’s going to be a presence that from now and on, that it will be met with,” says Terry Dumphord, president of the Bourbon County NAACP chapter.

“Being in Lexington right now, we’re dealing with 32 murders, 32 homicides, and you know, a kid’s statement [Monday], he said ‘we’re already dealing with enough with the black-on-black crime, we’re killing each other’, so he was pretty upset that this came across his newsfeed and his posts, that this is still happening in this day and age,” says Damion Riley, founder of Project Body Bag.

“I don’t feel like Lexington is doing enough as a community to combat events like this,” says Misha Miles, owner of Misha’s Healing Love. “My heart more so went out to [Plowden] that she even had to experience something like this and be met with that energy while just simply trying to feed her children.”

There was a handwritten sign on the Papa Murphy’s door saying it was closed for restocking. We reached out to the store Sunday and Monday and didn’t get a response. We also tried to contact Papa Murphy’s corporate offices but didn’t get a response there either.

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Screenshot from Judy Lynn Caskey of Papa Murphy’s corporate response.

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Screenshot from Judy Lynn Caskey of Papa Murphy’s corporate response.

A woman on Facebook posted screenshots of the messages she says she received from corporate saying, “We apologize if this is upsetting in nature to any of our guests and always strive to have a fun and safe environment for everyone.” In the screenshotted messages, Papa Murphy’s corporate says the decorations were up for a few hours and then taken down when the issue was realized.

“Any time you have symbolism that represents terrorism, you know, that represents hate crimes, to paraphrase that and say that you’re trying to have a ‘fun and safe environment’ and add that to the mix, then that’s where we defer,” says Dumphord. “That’s where we have to come out and meet you where you’re at.”

“An organization, like a pizza place, that usually has the impact that it has on youth, what type of message are we sending?” says Doyle Lee, founder of Hearts: One Beat at a Time. “It’s 2021 and we’re still going through the same thing? And we’re asking our youth to do the right thing? [Papa Murphy’s] doors don’t need to be open.”

Those gathered outside Papa Murphy’s still want answers as to why nooses were chosen as the decoration. Most of all, the activists say they want to get to the root of the issue to enact change.

“If [Papa Murphy’s] never get shut down, my biggest thing is educate,” says Riley. “You have to educate your employees, you have to educate your managers, you have to run an education training course to educate them not only on black history, but just history period.”

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