Despite false alarm at NASCAR, nooses sighted in at least 11 cities across US
Bubba Wallace Fires Back After FBI Says Noose Was Not a Hate Crime.NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace is speaking out against claims that he orchestrated the discovery of a noose in his Talladega Superspeedway garage.
By ArLuther Lee
June 24, 2020
Nooses hung from trees, hateful vestiges of Jim Crow-era lynchings that are still used to intimidate Black people, have been sighted in at least 11 cities around the country in recent weeks, according to an unofficial tally by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Six separate incidents that were initially thought to be racist displays have turned out to be false alarms, Tuesday’s count of the incidents revealed.
One of the false-positives now includes the Sunday incident at Talladega Superspeedway, where a knotted rope was found hanging inside the garage of NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace. By late Tuesday afternoon, the FBI released a statement calling the incident a misunderstanding and concluded that no crime had been committed.
The noose was apparently used as a garage door pull-rope and had been spotted in the stall as early as October 2019.
The sudden spate of other noose sightings was punctuated over the weekend by the news out of Talladega and by reports of a makeshift noose found hanging from a tree behind an old administrative office Saturday at the Sonoma Raceway in California, according to reports. Officials are continuing to investigate there.
The remaining noose sightings in other states are getting increased attention as five people of color have been found hanging from trees in three U.S. cities since May 31, heightening fear and suspicions amid festering racial tensions in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Officials so far have ruled each of those deaths a suicide, but family members in at least two of the cases said they were not convinced and are calling for independent investigations.
Sightings coast to coast
One of the racially charged nooses found last Thursday in Oakland, California, remains under investigation by federal authorities as a potential hate crime.
In that case, a “fake body hanging from a noose” was found at the city’s popular Lake Merritt, according to KTLA 5 News in Oakland.
On Monday, the day after the NASCAR uproar, someone called police to report a hangman’s noose hanging from a tree in Pennypack Park in northeast Philadelphia, according to a reporter with KYW Newsradio.
In one of the more shocking scenes found Saturday in Milwaukee, laminated photos of six nationally recognized Black victims — most of whom died at the hands of police — were found tied to nooses and hanging from a tree in Riverside Park, according to WISN News 12.
The chilling display contained images of Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Botham Jean, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. Outraged members of the original Black Panthers showed up at the scene and took the display down that same night, the station reported.
Authorities don’t know who put the photos there. The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department is investigating.
In Oregon, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office investigated a noose found at Whistler's Bend Park, northeast of Roseburg over the weekend, KEZI News 9 reported.
On Friday, which was Juneteenth, a noose was discovered hanging from a telephone line in Deer Isle, Maine, reportedly next to a “White Lives Matter” sign, according to Forbes.
Another noose was found on June 17 hanging from a tree at a private association beach in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, across the sound from Martha’s Vineyard, according to a report by Amaka Ubaka of 7 News in Boston.
Three days later white nationalist flyers declaring “WHITE POWER” were found taped around town streets.
Within the last week, a noose was found on the chair of a Black employee at the Oriental Trading Company in La Vista, Nebraska, according to KETV NewsWatch 7, citing the Sarpy County Sheriff's Office.
On June 10 in Fort Worth, Texas, a man checking out social media rumors found a noose hanging outside a home owned by a former civilian employee of the Fort Worth Police Department, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which could not confirm if she still lived there with her husband.
The Star-Telegram reported that Michael Wilkinson went on Facebook to declare he was not a racist, and that the noose had been put up "to deter crime."
A family member reportedly removed the noose the next day. Florida has had at least two noose incidents reported within the last week. Motorists traveling along Interstate 95 through Jacksonville on Saturday morning reported seeing a mannequin dressed in a New York Police uniform and dangling by rope from an overpass, The Associated Press reported. Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams later called the incident "extremely disturbing." In another Florida incident, International Paper said it is investigating a noose found on its property in Escambia County, according to news outlet WKRG.
Nooses on social media
Another two depictions of nooses have also recently caused major ripples on social media.
Sandy Springs-based UPS also continues to respond to social media questions about one of its former employees in Carnation, Washington, who recently posted a photo of himself on Facebook holding a crudely made dummy strung up by a noose.
The man’s Facebook profile says he works for the company, and Twitter sleuths have been tagging the company for weeks, including one person Monday who asked “@UPS is this your employee?”
“Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” the company acknowledged. “This person has not been employed by the company since 2019, and he does not represent UPS’ values and standards. UPS does not condone nor tolerate any kind of harassment or discrimination.”
Last month, an executive with a Chattanooga-based software company was fired after he allegedly posted a racist meme of Barack Obama that went viral on social media.
The shocking effigy depicts the former president with a noose around his neck and the hashtag “#PayPerView” in bold type above him.
Not all the noose incidents appear to be nefarious, the analysis revealed.
In New York, there were two apparent false alarms.
On June 13, what witnesses thought was a noose strung to a tree at a park in Harlem turned out to be a rope that construction workers were using to hoist building materials up a scaffold.
The rope looked so much like a noose that it prompted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to announce an investigation into the incident.
“I am disgusted by the recent discovery of a noose — the epitome of hatred and an evil icon of our nation’s racist past — in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park,” the governor said on Twitter last Thursday. “I am directing the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate this immoral and illegal act.”
Since then, two Bronx residents called police to report multiple nooses in a nearby park, but New York police officers declined to investigate, according to reports.
Five ropes found hanging from trees in an Oakland city park were determined to be merely exercise equipment that a Black resident put up months ago, the San Jose Mercury News reported, citing an announcement by the city's mayor.
A similar mix-up happened last Monday in Birmingham, Alabama, when an investigation concluded that multiple nooses found hanging in Kelly Ingram Park turned out to be an art display in observance of Juneteenth, according to reports.
Earlier this month, a children's swing set in the yard of an Oklahoma City couple also caused ripples with social media users, who said the ropes looked like a noose without the swing, according to KOKH Fox 25 News.
The grandfather who lives at the home told the station he would likely take down the ropes to avoid further confusion.
Why it matters
The Anti-Defamation League classifies a hangman’s noose as a hate symbol that is primarily used to intimidate Black people.
During the eras of Reconstruction, Jim Crow and Civil Rights, bands of white vigilantes usually led by the Ku Klux Klan were notorious for carrying out lynchings, bombings and assassinations on Black people with impunity, and with few — if any — legal consequences.
During the lynching era, it was not uncommon for the deaths of Black men to be ruled as suicides to cover up murders by white mobs and police officers, according to The Washington Post.
Memories of the atrocities are still an open wound for the Black community.
Congress is considering bipartisan legislation that would make lynching a federal crime, but the bill is being delayed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who argues the language in the bill is too broad and the law might be wrongfully applied.