CORTLANDT, N.Y. — A Halloween display involving a Donald Trump tombstone and a fake corpse has created a grave situation in a Cortlandt neighborhood.
A Cross Lane home has drawn attention for decorations on the front lawn that denigrate the president, whose name is on a tombstone with "Burn in Hell" written underneath his name.
The tombstone, one of five in the yard, is set up in front of a fake crime scene, with yellow caution tape and a fake corpse that is made up of a rolled garbage bag. The debate over the display's tastefulness has turned personal for two residents in the neighborhood.
"I'm doing it for fun. It was a joke," Fabian Vergara, who lives in the home, said Wednesday. "I like Halloween, so I don't see anything wrong with that. It's a free country."
A couple of neighbors on Cross Lane said Wednesday they had not even noticed the Trump tombstone.
"I haven't seen it, but I wouldn't care either way," said Ruud Haring, a native of the Netherlands who lives across the street from Vergara. "It's definitely freedom of speech, right?"
Theresa Gucciardo-Perry, who lives around the corner on Edgewood Road, said she was so disgusted by the setup, though, that she called Cortlandt officials to see if the town could force Vergara to remove it.
"I want to know how far freedom of speech goes," she said.
Gucciardo-Perry said she wants the decorations, and Vergara, out of the neighborhood.
"Fabian needs to be removed from the neighborhood," she said.
Vergara said Gucciardo-Perry approached him on Tuesday and asked him to remove the display. Vergara, a native of Ecuador who lives in the house with his wife and two of their children, said he planned to take it down but changed his mind when she told him to go back to his country.
"It's not fair," he said. "That's not the right way to treat me, like that."
"The man had no intentions of removing it," Gucciardo-Perry said.
She said she knew that Vergara was an immigrant and that she "welcomed him to the neighborhood" when his family moved in about 10 months ago.
"Is this about Halloween or about you making a political statement?" she said about the decorations. "You don't like it here? Get the hell out."
Vergara said that the fake corpse was on his lawn since the beginning of October, and that he did not put up the Trump tombstone until about a week ago. He said the corpse is not meant to represent Trump.
Gucciardo-Perry said she noticed the crime scene and corpse on Vergara's lawn at least a week before the Trump tombstone, which she said was not an appropriate decoration for children to see.
"What a strange Halloween thing," she said. "I thought it was bizarre."
"We know that Trump does not say nice things," she said. Still, she said, it is part of a larger issue of being respectful of authority and political discourse.
Gucciardo-Perry referenced her husband, White Plains police Detective Michael Perry, who died of a heart attack after making an arrest in 2010, and her efforts to teach their twin sons values that she feels are tarnished on Vergara's lawn.
"I fight for what I believe," she said.