Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said ropes found hanging from trees Tuesday at Lake Merritt were nooses that will be investigated as a hate crime, but others argue the ropes were used as exercise equipment.
“These have no place in our city at any time, but especially in this time," Schaaf said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. "These incidents will be investigated as a hate crime. Evidence has been turned over to the FBI. I want to be clear, regardless of the intentions of whoever put those nooses in our public trees, in our sacred public space here in Oakland, intentions don’t matter."
The Oakland Police Department said officers found five ropes attached to various trees in the area of Staten and Bellevue avenues after the department learned about a social media post identifying a rope as a noose.
According to police, several community members reported that the ropes were used for exercise equipment. One person who claimed ownership of the ropes said he intentionally put the ropes in the trees "for exercise and games several months ago."
"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," police said in a statement. "As a Department and City, we understand the historical and harmful associations when ropes are hung from trees and how the impact can harm our communities. We remind and ask our community to be mindful when using this equipment in a recreational manner. These acts may send an unintended message. The Oakland Police Department and the City of Oakland take all allegations of hate crimes seriously. The Department is conducting a full and thorough investigation of this incident."
Victor Sengbe of Oakland said the ropes were not a symbol of hate. He said they were used to attach a makeshift swing.
"Out of the dozens and hundreds and thousands of people that have walked by, no one has thought that it looked anyway close to a noose," he said.