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McDonald's franchisee apologizes over offensive Halloween decorations

The Halloween stickers included spooky pumpkins, spiders and a dark figure hanging from a tree.
Erik Pocock
/ Source: TODAY

A McDonald's in North Andover, Massachusetts, recently came under fire from customers who were upset by a display of seasonal Halloween stickers they deemed to be insensitive and possibly racist.

On Oct. 22, Erik Pocock and his friends stopped by a McDonald's for a bite to eat. When they got to the register, Pocock noticed a design on the cashier's stand that appeared to display some jack-o'-lanterns, black bats and an eerie tree.

But when Pocock looked closer, he noticed that there was what appeared to be a black rope dangling from the tree — with a lifeless black stick figure hanging from it.

The image wasn't something he soon forgot.

Halloween decorations spotted at a McDonald's located in Massachusetts prompted an uproar on social media. The stickers have since been removed. Erik Pocock

"My friends and I were completely shocked that a large establishment like McDonald's would put decorations like these up for all to see. It’s disgusting, insensitive and I can’t believe someone thought this was a good idea," Pocock told TODAY Food on Monday.

On Twitter, a lot of people were also outraged by the image, which some said was suggestive of a lynching scene.

A few folks, however, saw the black-and-orange stickers as being similar to any other Halloween-themed display with symbols of death and gore.

Some felt that such opinionated outrage should be kept private, while others said they felt that a "public space" like McDonald's has a responsibility to not display anything that could be seen as offensive to a variety of patrons.

Not only was the tree design placed in an area that was eye level for many young children, Pocock noted that this particular McDonald's is located right across the street from a school, so many teens often hang out in the restaurant.

Pocock said that a restaurant staff member removed the decor when a news crew arrived at the restaurant.

Chuck Lietz, the owner and operator of the North Andover McDonald's franchise, issued a public apology after getting rid of the scene that was deemed as unsightly.

"We deeply regret that these decorations were on display, and as soon as we identified the inappropriate content, we immediately removed the decorations display," Lietz said. "Creating an environment that is welcoming and inclusive to all our guests and employees is critically important to us, and we apologize for any unintended offense they may have had on our community."