Democratic Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf launched a hate crime investigation over “nooses” that were found in a local park, but a black resident claimed they were exercise aids.
Schaaf acknowledged that residents had reported the presence of ropes hanging in trees and that they appeared to be “nooses.” She then announced a plan to launch a hate crime investigation into the situation. (RELATED: Oakland Mayor Writes Op-Ed Criticizing Trump On Immigration)
Several nooses found on trees around Lake Merritt were removed and will be investigated as hate crimes. pic.twitter.com/JW8TvY6pi4
— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) June 17, 2020
“Symbols of racial violence have no place in Oakland and will not be tolerated,” Schaaf said in a statement.
But a black resident named Victor Sengbe explained to local CBS affiliate WKYT that the ropes were actually part of an exercise course he had helped to set up.
“Out of the dozen and hundreds and thousands of people that walked by, no one has thought that it looked anywhere close to a noose. Folks have used it for exercise. It was really a fun addition to the park that we tried to create,” Sengbe told WKYT, adding, “It’s unfortunate that a genuine gesture of just wanting to have a good time got misinterpreted into something so heinous.”
“It’s unfortunate that a genuine gesture of just wanting to have a good time got misinterpreted into something so heinous.” https://t.co/n5dhZQVMoY
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 18, 2020
Schaaf justified her initial response by saying that she had to start with the assumption that it was a hate crime, saying, “Intentions don’t matter when it comes to terrorizing the public. It is incumbent on all of us to know the actual history of racial violence, of terrorism, that a noose represents and that we as a city must remove these terrorizing symbols from the public view.”
Oakland Parks and Recreation Director Nicholas Williams added, “The symbolism of the rope hanging in the tree is malicious regardless of intent. It’s evil, and it symbolizes hatred.”