Police in Oakland, California, removed a “fake body hanging from a tree” on Thursday morning near Lake Merritt, the same park where multiple nooses were taken down the day before, HuffPost confirmed.
The racist displays follow weeks of civil rights protests against racism and police brutality, some of which took place in the park.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff issued a statement Thursday calling the incident “a deliberate and vile attempt to traumatize and divide Oaklanders.”
Earlier this morning, we removed a human effigy hung from a tree at Lake Merritt — a deliberate and vile attempt to traumatize and divide Oaklanders. We immediately engaged the FBI to investigate this heinous act for what it clearly is — a hate crime. pic.twitter.com/rsGk9zeSd9
— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) June 18, 2020
Police said they received a call about the effigy at 8:20 a.m. from a person who said they had already pulled it down. When officers arrived, they found “material stuffed in the shape of a human body with a rope tied around the torso and neck, laying on the ground next to a tree with an American flag lying next to it.”
The Oakland Police Department, with help from the FBI, is investigating both the effigy and the nooses as hate crimes.
Dave “Davey D” Cook, identified by the San Francisco Chronicle as a Bay Area journalist and activist, posted photos of officers at the scene bagging the display. He was “mad as hell,” he wrote on Facebook, that the officers would not allow him to get close enough to take a picture of the effigy.
“I rolled right up and had a clear view and was blocked and told I was disturbing the evidence,” he wrote.
Additional photos depicted a crude human shape made of white and black material, strung with a dark cord.
Officials have stressed that ropes, nooses and effigies attached to trees are historically associated with racial hatred.
“Intentions do not matter. We will not tolerate symbols of hate in our city,” Schaaf said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference condemning the nooses.
Oakland police said Wednesday that five ropes had been removed from trees at the park, noting that “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. One of the ropes appeared to include a plastic handlebar in photos provided by police.
“We recognize that especially at this time, any symbolic messages such as these incidents frighten and harm our communities,” Oakland police said.
Anti-racism protests have been held across the U.S. and around the world since the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man whose final moments were caught on tape as a white Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck on May 25. Demonstrators have worked to shine a light on the way Black people and people of color are brutalized by police, pointing to a string of recent examples, such as the March killing of Louisville, Kentucky, emergency room tech Breonna Taylor. Police were executing a late-night “no knock” warrant when they shot Taylor several times while she was in bed.
The demonstrations have also sparked a larger reckoning with racism in America.
Lydia O’Connor contributed reporting.
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