Police in Berkeley, California are investigating cardboard cutouts of black figures found hanging in effigy around the University of California – Berkeley campus, L.A. Times is reporting.
Berkeley has been the scene of protests, sometimes violent, in the past several days, in the wake of decisions by grand juries in Missouri and New York not to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men. Police are unsure, as of this post, if the person or persons who put up the hanging effigies are sympathetic to the protests, or if they are making a racist counter-statement, school spokeswoman Amy Hamaoui tells the Associated Press.
“We are unsure of the intent.”
The effigies depict known African-American victims of lynchings, and include the dates of their deaths, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. One such victim was identified as Laura Nelson, an African-American woman who was raped and then, along with her son, hung from a bridge in eastern Oklahoma after the son was accused of shooting a sheriff in 1911.
Another effigy had the words “I can’t breathe” — a reference to Eric Garner — stamped on it.
A local pastor, Michael McBride, first brought the hanging effigies to the attention of social media.
Just arrived to hear 3 effigy found. UC berkeley police took em down & said we took care of it. We have one in our possession #Ferguson2CAL
— Michael McBride (@pastormykmac) December 13, 2014
Pastor McBride is also unsure whether the effigies are a hate crime, or a statement of support.
“I came down and huddled with the students and attempted to help talk them through what they were experiencing, considering the options of it being an art protest, considering the options that it was of malicious intent. I don’t know what the intention is or was because of the anonymity associated with it.”
UC Berkeley professor Leigh Raiford, however, believes the effigies are an artistic expression in support of the African-American community.
“To me this suggested a really powerful public art installation that was trying to provoke people to make historical connection between the history of lynching, state violence against black folks and the contemporary situation that we’re faced with around police brutality and these non-indictments.”
If the person who hung the effigies is identified, he or she could be charged with a hate crime under California’s “Ralph Act,” which makes it a crime to threaten or intimidate a person based on their race, according to the California Attorney General’s Office.
Do you believe these hanging effigies around UC Berkeley are a hate crime, or a statement of support?
[Image courtesy of: Berkeleyside]