Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)
What’s spookier than ghosts? For one small Washington town, it’s “Karens” demanding to speak to the manager.
Prosser city officials have removed a Halloween contest display from City Hall that some residents found offensive, with some residents claiming it was targeting a specific community leader.
City officials say that it was not aimed at anyone.
Prosser is the county seat of Benton County and is about a half hour west of the Tri-Cities in the Yakima Valley.
The offensive display in question was of a “Karen” mannequin with a black wig and a T-shirt that read, “Can I speak to the manager?” posed with a sign, “Karen’s Garden.”
Dictionary.com defines “Karen” as a “pejorative term for a white woman perceived as entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is normal.”
The term, which grew in popularity during the COVID pandemic, is often seen in viral social media posts referring to women abusive toward customer service workers and demanding to speak to managers.
While “Karens” can often be pretty scary for those working in retail or fast food, you probably wouldn’t expect to see one as a Halloween display at City Hall, but that’s exactly what happened in Prosser.
After backlash, the display was taken down and news release sent out to the media. It was meant to be one their entries in Historic Downtown Prosser’s annual decorating contest.
“The City of Prosser removed the Halloween display at City Hall and has withdrawn its entry into the Historic Downtown Prosser decorating contest,” a representative for the city said in the release. “City officials acknowledge the display was inconsistent with the spirit of the competition.”
City Manager Thomas Glover told the Herald the display was put up by city employees, but could not say if it was approved by city leadership beforehand.
But the dig at Karens seems to be more than just a surface-level joke.
Friends of Downtown Prosser, a community group opposed to an upcoming $16.8 million bond package to replace Prosser City Hall and Police Station, say the display is taking aim at one of their leaders.
In an email to the Herald, a representative for the group claimed that the debate had led to friction in the town of about 6,300 and that the spouse of a city employee had recently taken to calling some of the leadership “Karens.”
They said the display was targeted at a group member who is an avid gardener, and a black wig was put on the display to match her hair color.
Maricela Sanchez, a lifelong Prosser resident and local physician, said that they have faced escalating harassment from residents and even city employees over the past two years as she has worked with others to oppose what they believe is an extravagant bond package.
“This past weekend, City Hall entered an annual Halloween decorating contest with a ghoulish scarecrow dressed up to look like me. Several people who understood the context behind the display immediately complained to the city,” Sanchez told the Herald in an e-mail.
” Prosser City Hall engaged in targeted, public harassment of a private Prosser citizen on public grounds. They created a grotesque effigy to publicly humiliate a city resident as retaliation for opposing a city bond proposal on the upcoming ballot,” she wrote.
Glover denied the display was aimed at a specific community member, but could not say which employees put it up or whether they had been disciplined.
“It’s just unfortunate that some people decided it was targeted toward a resident,” he said. “I think it got out of hand.”
On the city’s Facebook post residents shared opposing viewpoints.
“Really? Someone complained about this?? Was her name Karen?,” Holly Coleman wrote.
Another called the display offensive and unprofessional.
“I found the city of Prosser display Tasteless, Disrespectful, Hurtful, Totally Uncalled for childish and MEAN The city Of Prosser should Make a Public Apology . To ALL the women in the Greater Prosser Area, (whose) First Name Is Karen and all so to the Citizens of Prosser . That was A Very Unprofessional Of THE CITY OF PROSSER from the Top Down … ,” Mike Ray Carrell wrote, with a photo of the display attached for all to see.
This story was originally published October 18, 2022 10:29 AM.
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