As the story of a man found hanging from a tree in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park has permeated the internet, some of the evidence suggesting involvement by the Ku Klux Klan has yet to yield any validated results.
A body was found by park security around 4 a.m. and reported to the Atlanta Police Department at around 5 a.m. on Thursday morning. Officers who arrived on the scene found that body, belonging to a black male, hanging from a tree which, when word broke to the public, immediately evoked concerns that it could be the result of a hate crime.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, evidence at the scene involved pollen on the shirt of the man who had been found, which officers said was consistent with climbing a tree. A garbage can found next to the tree had shoe markings that allegedly match those of the body.
As police have yet to complete an autopsy that would determine the cause of death, a spokesman for the police confirmed that a Fulton County medical examiner found the death consistent with a suicide.
Given the history of the South and the attention drawn to racial violence of late, skepticism took over the Twitter feeds of residents.
Several stories, like the widely distributed article from Heavy, have sourced a single Twitter account to be the origin of rumors that the Ku Klux Klan was seen at the park the previous day handing out flyers.
so the same night that KKK members were seen handing out flyers, a black male is lynched on a tree in Piedmont Park? But it's suicide? ????????— Rocc ® (@TheOfficialRocc) July 7, 2016
However, there’s no evidence throughout the thread of responding comments, many of which were vulgar, that validates the claim that the Klan was seen the night of the discovery in Piedmont Park.
The Atlanta police stated that they could not confirm the presence of the KKK in the area that night.
Police spokesman Lukasz Sajdak issued the following statement.
“We have reached out to the Zone and there is no information on the KKK being in or around the park last [Wednesday] night.”
While the name of the man has yet to be released, the mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, has since turned the investigation over to the FBI.
“The Atlanta Police Department (APD) is conducting a robust investigation into his death and I have asked to receive regular briefings on the status of the investigation. We have also referred the case to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Closer inspection of the tweets used in several articles, however, reveals what could be an oversight in the reports. It appears that the tweeted image of the flyers allegedly handed out the night before were actually from Virginia.
Reading the thread following the tweeted image, it becomes clear that some were misappropriating the flyer pictured with those allegedly handed out at Piedmont Park the night of the hanging.
Furthermore, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the activities of hate groups, has no evidence that there was any Klan activity at the park in Atlanta that night, but they are monitoring the situation, according to spokesperson Kirsten Bokenkamp.
“We are monitoring this situation, but will not have a comment or anything to add until we learn more.”
A local activist group, Antifa (Anti-Fascist Action) Atlanta, is also seeking information on the possible involvement of the KKK in connection to the hanging in Piedmont Park.
Followed up: photo of KKK flyer is from VA, not from around Piedmont Park. Info on KKK activity in GA? Get in touch. https://t.co/x0JrMD7KLB— ATL AntifascistNotes (@afainatl) July 7, 2016
Antifa Atlanta, per their website, monitors Klan activity in the area in order to mobilize counter-demonstrations, but they have not received any information consistent with the allegations of the hate group being in or around Piedmont Park on Wednesday evening. Concerns soon arose that the stories suggesting as such are being used by right-wing groups to discredit anti-racist and leftist groups in the Atlanta area.
As the investigation into the events leading up to the discovery of the body continues, both the FBI and Department of Justice have refrained from commenting.
[Photo by Bloomberg/Getty Images]