Multiple nooses were found hanging from tree branches at a public park in Oakland, California, the city’s mayor confirmed Wednesday, as Americans continue to wrestle with issues of racial inequality brought into sharper focus by recent civil rights protests.
Oakland police are currently investigating the incident as a hate crime.
“Symbols of racial violence have no place in Oakland and will not be tolerated,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement.
“Reports that these were part of exercise equipment do not remove nor excuse their torturous and terrorizing effects,” Schaaf added. “We are all responsible for knowing the history and present-day reality of lynchings, hate crimes and racial violence.”
In video posted to social media, the unmistakable shape of a noose can be seen swaying from a high branch at Lake Merritt, a tidal lagoon ringed by three miles of shoreline and public recreational space.
Oakland police told HuffPost that five ropes were found in trees at the park, and “several community members” came forward to say they were used as exercise equipment. One man “claimed ownership of the ropes and stated that he intentionally placed the ropes on the tree limbs for exercise and games several months ago,” the department said in a statement. In photos of the five ropes, one of them appears to include a plastic handlebar.
“The Oakland Police Department and the City of Oakland recognize especially at this time, that any ropes on or attached to trees, limbs or other objects can be associated with hate crimes and racial violence,” the department said, noting that hanging such ropes can send “an unintended message.”
Porchia Freeman, who posted the first images of the nooses that attracted attention Tuesday afternoon, addressed the suggestion that they were strung up for recreational purposes in a follow-up Facebook post on Wednesday.
“I’ve never seen a swing set that resembles a noose. It looks like a noose, it swings like a noose ― I thought it was a noose. And I just thought I’d bring awareness,” she said.
Large-scale protests against racism and police brutality have been taking place around the U.S. and across the world following the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis in late May.
In some places, handfuls of far-right white supremacists have been spotted bearing signs with racist messaging to counter the Black Lives Matter protesters, whose demonstrations have been largely peaceful.