A day after a hate crime investigation was opened into nooses found on trees in Oakland, California, a “fake body hanging from a noose” was reported in the same area, according to police.
The effigy was found hanging in a tree near Lake Merritt on Thursday morning by a resident, according to a press release from the Oakland Police Department. The resident removed the effigy from the tree and called police, the release said.
Police officers 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,” according to the press release.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf tweeted a statement on Thursday saying the effigy was “a deliberate and vile attempt to traumatize and divide Oaklanders.”
Oakland police notified the FBI, according to the press release. Both agencies are investigating Tuesday’s incident, when five nooses were found hanging from trees in the same area around Lake Merritt.
On Wednesday, Schaaf announced a hate crime investigation into the nooses.
“Symbols of racial violence have no place in Oakland and will not be tolerated,” Schaaf said in a statement posted on Twitter. “We are all responsible for knowing the history and present day reality of lynchings, hate crimes and racial violence. Objects that invoke such terror will not be tolerated in Oakland’s public spaces.”
Oakland resident Porchia Freeman took video of what appears to be a noose swinging from tree near the lake on Tuesday. She said she was walking around the lake when she saw a string swinging in her peripheral vision. Freeman then recorded video and posted it on social media.
“I posted it because it was very disturbing to me and I thought I’d bring awareness to the situation,” Freeman said on a Facebook Live on Wednesday.
Freeman said that a man contacted her and said the rope was left over from a swing he had hung on the tree.
During an initial investigation, residents claimed the ropes were used for exercise, according to a press release from Oakland police.
“One community member 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 press release states.
Schaaf also addressed these reports in her statement
“Reports that these were part of exercise equipment do not remove nor excuse their torturous and terrorizing effects,” Schaaf said in a statement.
At a press conference Wednesday, Schaaf explained that symbols like this should not exist in public spaces where people are supposed to feel safe. She said it is against city regulations to put anything in public trees, regardless of intent.
“We have to start with the assumption that these are hate crimes,” Schaaf said. “We cannot take these actions lightly, we have to take them seriously.”
Extra patrols have been assigned to Lake Merritt, according to police.
Investigation into hanging deaths
This incident follows the hanging deaths of two black men in Southern California that are being investigated by both local and federal agencies. Robert L. Fuller, 24, was found hanging from a tree early last Wednesday in Palmdale. His death was described by authorities as “an alleged death by suicide.”
But Fuller’s family announced that they are seeking an independent investigation and autopsy to determine the cause of his death.
In San Bernardino County, about 50 miles away, Malcolm Harsch, 38, was found hung to death at a homeless encampment on May 31. Investigators did not find any evidence of foul play, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
An autopsy was conducted on June 12 and there are still no signs of foul play, the sheriff’s department said. The forensic pathologist is waiting for toxicology results before assigning the cause and manner of death.