Sarah Palin effigy hung in Halloween display

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - An effigy of U.S. Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin hanging by a noose as part of a Halloween display drew complaints on Monday, but local officials said the homeowner was covered by free speech rights.

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A mannequin dressed to resemble the Alaska governor, with her trademark beehive hairdo and glasses, was hung by the neck from the eaves of the home in famously liberal West Hollywood.

On the roof, a mannequin of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, protruded from the chimney surrounded in flames, holding his head as he was apparently burned alive.

“We have been getting some phone calls this morning complaining about it but if (the homeowner) isn’t in violation of municipal code we have no reason to cite them,” West Hollywood spokeswoman Helen Goss said.

“People have First Amendment rights (to free speech),” Goss said. “I would speculate that if it’s part of a Halloween display then its political satire.”

Homeowner Chad Michael Morisette told local KCAL-TV the display should be considered Halloween “art” and said his neighbors would probably be more offended by a similar scene invoking Democrat Barack Obama.

“I know if we had done Barack Obama, people would have probably thrown things through our windows,” Morisette said. “The image of a hanged black man is a lot more intense than the image of a hanged white woman for our country, the history of our country.”

Earlier a cardboard likeness of Obama was strung up from a tree at an Oregon university and an Ohio man who told local media he didn’t want to see an African-American running the country hung a ghostly figure bearing an Obama sign from a tree in his yard.

If he wins the November 4 election, Obama will be the first African American to become U.S. president.

West Hollywood is known for its large gay population and its liberal politics. It hosts a large and flamboyant outdoor Halloween parade each year.

Palin, who is seen as more conservative than running-mate McCain, has been a lightning-rod of criticism from the left since her nomination to the ticket.

Editing by Jill Serjeant