When Morton Police Chief Roger Morningstar built an 8-foot-tall, gold painted three-dimensional structure on his front lawn to show his support for President Donald Trump, he expected there would be some folks who did not see eye-to-eye with it.
He did not, however, expect to be labeled a white supremacist by some people over social media, but that is precisely what happened.
Sitting in Morningstar’s front lawn is a monument to Trump that bears the name “Trump Tower.” And it likely would be taller than 8 feet if the spire that formerly sat on top of the structure hadn’t been taken down. But that was before people began likening it to a Ku Klux Klan hood.
Because of the Trump tower, Morningstar says he has received a wave of criticism online from people saying he supports white supremacy. Morningstar told The Chronicle on Monday that any idea suggesting he supports white supremacy is “ridiculous.”
“I saw online people saying that my page regularly supports white power, which is absolutely false,” Morningstar said. “I am half Mexican and half Jewish, my grandfather came here from Mexico and became a citizen and the Morningstar side of my family — Morningstar is a German name — they were all Jewish immigrants.”
The idea to erect a tower honoring Trump came to him months ago, he said, right around when the COVID-19 pandemic was picking up. After Morningstar had seen other grand gestures showing support for Trump, he decided it was his turn to make his own.
“I see people putting out ginormous flags or I’ve seen guys on the internet turn an entire field into a Trump 2020 flag and I thought, ‘Hey, it would be cool to have a mini Trump Tower in the front yard just to show support for the President.’”
The idea had been tossed around by Morningstar and a few of his friends, he said, but it wasn’t until last week that he got a call from one of his friends saying he wanted to put the plan in action.
Morningstar said community members and personal friends helped construct it, and once it was completed and pictures of the structure had reached social media, outrage began to swell.
In a since-deleted post to a Facebook group titled “Team Trump,” Morningstar posted two pictures of his tower with the caption “We support our President! Morton WA.”
There were commenters who showed their support, but also commenters like Tre Nichols who said “Looks like a KKK hat to me! Just sayin” followed by a few emojis.
“All these people are coming out of the woodwork saying it is a Klan hat, which is totally ridiculous,” Morningstar said.
Morningstar said he removed the spire from the model tower out of sensitivity to eliminate any resemblance to a KKK hood, which he characterized as a reach from people who dislike Trump.
He also noted that he has seen much larger gestures of support to Trump that didn’t receive nearly as much criticism as his tower, which in part, was why he did not feel his Trump tower would be brought into focus the way it has online.
“I never really thought it would be a big target, but now, it is a little concerning, because the amount of vitriol and hate is ridiculous,” Morningstar said.
Mayor of Morton, Dan Mortensen, said on Tuesday that Morningstar’s Trump tower didn’t make a large impression on him because Morningstar had told him he had planned on making it a while ago.
Furthermore, he did not see an issue with the structure, saying it is no different than having a Trump sign or a Joe Biden sign in your yard.
“It appears to be a light-hearted rendition of the Trump Tower and he supports President Trump,” Mortensen said. “I don’t know why anyone would be upset about that, no different than putting a Biden sign in my yard. I guess I just fail to see the issue.”
Morton City Council member Richard Vanderlip said in an email he, personally, does not like the Trump tower, but more concerning to him is the divisiveness in American politics that he says is largely responsible for the controversy over the tower.
“I am not pleased with the division that is playing out in politics across our nation,” Vanderlip wrote. “I think the “Tower” is gaudy but it is on private property and protected by the first amendment. The negative publicity that the tower is generating is largely a function of the division I mentioned.”