Utah Woman Loses Job After Sharing Artwork of KKK Members Being Lynched

A Utah woman who shared on Facebook artwork showing Ku Klux Klan members being lynched has been fired from her job after a colleague complained she was "harassing" them with the post.

Madison Hartmann, 24, lost her job of four years at SeaQuest after the aquarium said she broke the company's polices with her social media posts.

As first reported by Buzzfeed News, Hartmann was called into a meeting on June 25 to discuss an image she shared on her personal Facebook page.

The photo in question was of the controversial art piece "Ku Klux Klowns" in which eight effigies dressed in white hoods and robes were lynched from trees in Richmond, Virginia, in 2017.

The art installation by the Indecline collective was set up in Bryan Park in the wake of the deadly neo-Nazi "Unite the Right" rally and around one week before a planned far-right demonstration was due to be held in Richmond protesting the removal of Confederate moments.

During the meeting about the KKK image, Hartmann was told by her manager that someone had complained that they "found it as harassing" and that she was violating harassment policy. SeaQuest also took issue with the fact that she had her employer listed on her social media page.

Speaking to Newsweek, Hartmann said she then set her Facebook to private and removed mention of Seaquest from her profile.

Around one week after she had the meeting about the KKK photo, Hartmann posted another picture of boxer Jonathan Montrel putting his middle finger in the air. The photo shows off Montrel's tattoo on his hand of a klansman being hanged.

She said that despite setting her profile to private and changing her settings so that the photo of Montrel would not be seen by co-workers who she had "suspected had reported me in the first place," she was once again called into a meeting over what she was sharing online.

She was told that she had again violated company policy and the "same person felt harassed and threatened by it because it was an image depicting violence."

Hartmann was then informed that she had been fired. She said she was "absolutely" shocked by the decision.

"We were short staffed enough due to COVID and I thought since the second picture I posted was set to private and because I had removed SeaQuest from my public profile I wasn't in violation of the policy," she told Newsweek.

Hartmann added that she understood that the KKK image is "jarring" and would "create an emotional reaction" like art is meant to do, but the employee in question should not have felt threatened.

"I am a very non-violent person and would never threaten a person's life. In my eyes, both posts were speaking out against hate and violence, as we have seen a resurgence of people who share KKK ideologies in these past few years and the horrible results of the power they feel being emboldened by the systems we have in place," she said.

"I can understand why someone may think differently and believe that 'hate does not fight hate' or that violence is just violence no matter who it's towards. There's going to be differences of opinion on these topics no matter who you are.

"But I wasn't meaning to harass anyone and definitely was not threatening a fellow co-worker with any acts of violence. Something as simple as just unfriending or unfollowing me could've prevented all of this mess."

After news of Hartmann's firing was reported, Indecline attempted to set up a fundraiser for the woman who shared their work online. However, Hartmann rejected the donations and instead asked people to give money to Black Lives Matter initiatives or GoFundMe pages to help people or color.

In a statement, Lisa Edwards, SeaQuest's HR manager, told BuzzFeed News: "SeaQuest believes in promoting a safe environment for our team members, guests and suppliers to enjoy. Any violation of our policies will result in disciplinary action including possible termination. As a company we do not feel the posts of a team member were in line with our company's ethics, values or company culture."

Indecline's "Ku Klux Klowns" work was met with criticism when it was first installed in 2017.

James Minor, president of the Richmond branch of the NAACP, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch at the time: "When you look at something like that, whether you consider it art or not art, lynching is not something that we're in agreement with at all. We do not support any groups that support violence."

(File photo) A member of the Ku Klux Klan poses for a photo during an interview with AFP in Hampton Bays, New York on November 22, 2016. A Utah woman who shared artwork showing KKK members being lynched on Facebook has been fired from her job. WILLIAM EDWARDS/AFP/Getty

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