"'Nooses' in Oakland Park Were Exercise Aids, Man Says"

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The AP reports, following up on earlier stories (CNN, N.Y. Post, Independent [UK]) that reported the nooses were being investigated as hate crimes:

Oakland's mayor said five ropes found hanging from trees in a city park are nooses and racially-charged symbols of terror but a resident said they are merely exercise equipment that he put up there months ago….

The Police Department provided five photographs of trees, some of which showed knotted ropes and one that appeared to have a piece of plastic pipe attached to a rope, hanging from tree limbs.

Victor Sengbe, who is black, told KGO-TV that the ropes were part of a rigging that he and his friends used as part of a larger swing system. He also shared video of the swing in use.

"Out of the dozen and hundreds and thousands of people that walked by, no one has thought that it looked anywhere close to a noose. Folks have used it for exercise. It was really a fun addition to the park that we tried to create," Sengbe said.

"It's unfortunate that a genuine gesture of just wanting to have a good time got misinterpreted into something so heinous," he told the station….

Police said several community members came forward during their initial investigation to say the ropes were used for exercise and a man came forward to say he put them up several months ago….

I appreciate that the city might not want anything hanging off the trees that's offputting to some park users (the trees aren't a public forum opened for public use)—or for that matter that might cause physical injury. But it's a reminder that things aren't always as they may seem to some.

Note also that one common argument for why hate crimes (e.g., a racially-motivated assault) should lead to greater punishment is that such a crime "is no ordinary crime because it transcends its immediate victims and strikes fear and terror into entire communities," in the words of now-Senator Charles Shumer. That suggests that, if there's an ambiguous incident, it may be better for government officials and the media to resist labeling it a hate crime until some more investigation takes place, since false reports can "strike[] fear and terror" as much as accurate ones can. (I'm certainly not saying there should be any prohibition on such premature labeling, just a preference to avoid prematurely publicly assuming the worst.)

Thanks to Ed Driscoll at InstaPundit for the pointer.

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  1. It’s all political. Burning the flag is not a hate crime, it’s protected speech. Hate crime laws are political weapons.

    Ask the citizens of Oakland if they would support hate crime laws if it was Donald Trump who decided what was hate.

    1. Burning the US flag is not — burning the Gay Pride flag IS….

      1. Come on. You know it can’t be a hate crime, because it isn’t a crime.

        1. “Disturbing the peace”, “disorderly conduct”, and even “burning without a permit” come to mind as crimes that would be charged.

          1. That all works for burning the American flag too. You can’t have content based criteria, or selective prosecution based on content.

      2. Suppose they were nooses. What crime would have been committed by whoever put them up? Littering?! And since it’s not a crime, how can it be a hate crime?

      3. Oops. Please ignore the second comment above, it was not meant as a reply to Dr Ed but as a top-level comment.

  2. There’s also the fable of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

    1. Was pointing to this a widespread thing on the left? I’ve heard about some mysterious black suicides by hanging, but never heard anyone talking about this.

      Not that blowing up this nonsense isn’t the sort of thing they’d run with. The narrative urge is strong.

      1. Libby Schaff, the mayor of Oakland some pretty strong feelings about who black people were exercising when the gyms and playgrounds were closed.

      2. The demand for hate crimes far exceeds the supply.

        1. What an excellent answer. I hope you don’t mind if I use that myself in the future Mr. Amir. It deserves to be in widespread use since it is the Truth. Well done.

    2. But what is the actual moral of that story? It isn’t that if you tell lies you won’t be believed when you tell the truth. It’s that even a liar sometimes tells the truth, and if you ignore everything they say you will end up not hearing something you really need to hear.

      It was no skin off the shepherd’s nose that nobody believed him when he told the truth. The sheep’s owners didn’t believe him, and the wolf killed their sheep.

      1. Wow, that’s really standing a parable on it’s head. Impressive!

      2. And the actual moral of The Good Samaritan was that it’s better to be a thief and/or to just walk by a victim thereof without helping, because the thief profited, and those who passed by without helping were saved the cost of putting the victim up at the nearest inn.

  3. This site won’t let me embed the Twitter link but here is a picture of the “nooses”. They are quite clearly exercise equipment.

    https://twitter.com/josephlocascio/status/1273472042939985922

    1. If one feels threatened, then ALL should feel threatened, I would imagine the thinking goes.

    2. Yeah, kind of hard to hang someone from one of those triangular handholds.

      1. #peoplewithsmalltriangularheadslivesmatter

    3. Leave to Libby, What a shithead she is.

  4. “Victor Sengbe, who is black…” first of all we don’t know he is black because it doesn’t say in the article who he intends to vote for in November. Second there is a documented sub-culture of Black White supremacists, the Chapelle show has produced multiple documentaries exposing the phenomenon.

  5. Yes, it’s really odd that the authorities weren’t more relaxed about possible nooses in a public park. It’s not like there has been a string of “suicides” by hanging among black people recently…

    https://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/nation/6-people-of-color-have-died-in-recent-string-of-hangings-across-country/article_e770d485-c096-5bad-a6ec-9df5f3a76e96.html

    1. So, six deaths in 20ish days, spread across the country, and the investigators who have actually examined the scenes are calling them suicides.

      Evil, nation wide conspiracy? Maybe!

      I wonder how much of an aberration this is. WISQARS shows 7093 Black suicides by hanging/suffocation in the last 10 years, so the usual number in a 20 day period would be something like 709*(20/365), which is about 39.

      (FWIW, the white rate is over double the black rate, so conspiracy theorists might want to have a look there…)

      In other news, the Summer of the Shark didn’t really have an unusual number of shark attacks either.

      1. Yes. Back in the Jim Crow days black Americans used to commit suicide by hanging all the time too. Lots of investigators confirmed it, so it must be true.

    2. Six suicides. Across the entire country. Sorry, that’s not “a string” – that’s statistically normal.

      But even if it were a string, there’s still no way to mistake exercise equipment for a noose.

      1. Seriously, if you believe those were all suicides I have a bridge you might like to buy.

        1. So black people can’t be so emotionally despondent that they seek to take their own lives? You insensitive, racist asshole.

        2. You realize that if you have any evidence that even one of those was other than a suicide, you have a moral obligation to report it to the authorities, right? On the other hand, if you have nothing more than paranoid speculations, you can keep that to yourself please.

    3. Take a look at the picture linked above and let us know if you still think this was a reasonable reaction.

    4. Hanging is a pretty common suicide method, other than Epstein there is nothing suspicious about it.

      I live in Cambodia in the winter time, and it’s by far the most common form of suicide there from what I can tell by reading the news.

    5. Oh yeah one other thing, hanging is the most common suicide method in the Netherlands. I’m guessing most Moroccan’s that proportedly hang themselves are being murdered too.

      1. That’s what happens in a country without widespread gun ownership.

        1. So you’re saying that there should be a higher level of gun ownership so as to give people an alternative to lynching themselves.

          1. No, I’m saying that the availability of different methods of suicide affects the rates at which they are used, as well as the overall rate of suicide.

          2. P.S. I shouldn’t have responded to your comment. My mistake. Your misuse of the word lynching clearly shows that you were trolling.

  6. Were they actual nooses, or merely some kind of knot tied in a rope? Because most leftists think that ANY kind of knot is a “noose”, and get all kinds of hysterical about them – especially in trees.

    1. I was expecting that this would be a false flag sort of incident.
      And it sort of was, as a black man has now come forward admitting that he placed these ropes in the park for purposes of their urban obstacle course.

      But since the mayor Libby Schaaf says “intentions don’t matter” I guess the city will be going after this dude then.

  7. According to the white mayor of Oakland, Victor Sengbe needs to check his privilege

    “What a privilege for those of us that don’t feel complete fear and terror when we see a rope in a tree. That is a privilege that so many of our African American residents do not enjoy and this is a moment that we must be cognizant of that reality. We have got to stop terrorizing our black and brown citizens and as white people, we have to become knowledgable and educated about the impact of our actions, whether they are well-intentioned or not.”

    I hope he doesn’t get too much time.

    1. Why would he be exercising anyway? That seems like a white behavior he’s trying to appropriate. Obeisity rates among non Hispanic Blacks at 38% are the highest in the country and a full 10% above Whites.

  8. In a just world, there’d be consequences for someone who falsely accused a Black man of anti-Black hate crimes. If nothing else, the person would be ridiculed.

    Autoerotic asphyxiation (Google it) exists and large universities will lose a kid to it every few years. It’s more common with younger males, and it is quite deadly. So yes, I’d report a noose as suspicious, but what about the presumption that the authorities have a scintilla of judgement….

    Just a scintilla of it….

    1. Yes, autoerotic asphyxiation fetishists exist.
      Fetishists about having sex in public also exist.
      Fetishists about autoerotic asphyxiation in public, though? Even in a world where Rule 34 is a real thing, that seems far fetched. Occam’s Razor would suggest that this really was just exercise equipment.

      1. There is something called “night” when there are lots of sexual activities that are largely concealed by something known as “darkness.” If you deal with young people long enough, nothing will surprise you anymore — Google “elevator surfing.”

    2. Just hanging around the homestead, watching Kung Fu and listening to INXS.

      1. I keep asking the DJ at our company Christmas party here in S.C. to play Original Sin, but in all these years he’s never gotten around to it. Too bad, great song!

  9. With the current atmosphere,I’m surprised people aren’t reporting white supremacist dog whistle code words spelled out in their alphabet soup.

    This whole thing is reminding me about the Chinese great cultural revolution, where you’re running around denouncing things out of fear that if you’re not leading the charge, you’ll be one of the targets

    And the bar is lowered every day on what constitutes racist, how does one keep up? Start following the most easily offended activist on Twitter?

  10. I can’t help but be vividly reminded of people freaking out over coffee stains in the shape of the Virgin Mary. Its a cult Gene.

  11. For regular commenters, does it worry any of y’all that you put so much time into a community (comments section) where we obviously hate each other? What does it say about any of us that we spend so much time trying to convince strangers who will never agree with us of how wrong they are? This feels unhealthy. I’m concerned about what it says about me.

    Carry on.

    1. Sane people aka rightwing hangouts, the few that there are, have their place. But I also like to spend some time in places with insane or not very intelligent people to understand their pov better. You have to find places with a balance because if its too leftwing usually they’ll just ban or bury you in downvotes.

      In the end its pointless, assh*les are like opinions. To be heard in any significant fashion you have to be a celeb or work your way up to influential commentator and you don’t accomplish either by posting as a random on some forum. To actually make a difference you have to step away from simple rhetoric on or off the computer.

      Lefties for all their faults have always understood this far better than conservatives. While conservatives are wasting time impotently ranting and getting banned on leftwing Sillycon Valley websites or concentrating directly on the ballot box the left has worked in the real world infiltrating key roles to where they now control or intimidate practically every major institution in society.

      For me personally, politics is not my day job. I’m just having fun until we enter a new Dark Age where instead of Donatists, or Gnosticism, or other obscure theological minutiae, everybody obsesses and murders each other over social justice minutiae all day everyday.

      Guess we’re half way there.

    2. My rule of thumb is that if I’m reading and posting because it’ll be fun to dunk on/marvel at the paranoid speculators, or to engage with contrary PoV like with you, it’s good. It’s for me, not for anyone else.

      But basically this year I noticed that I at times find myself switching over to a compulsion to correct people being Wrong on the Internet. That’s when I (in an effort of will) stop posting on that thread for the day, because it’s not fun; it’s actively making me feel frustrated and bad.

    3. re: “we obviously hate each other”

      I don’t think that’s true, NToJ. I, at least, enjoy the comments section because I can often have a substantive debate about details of philosophy, life and law. I may convince one or two people of my position. I sometimes change (or at least moderate) my own opinion. But even when I change neither my own mind nor any other’s, participation here forces me to articulate my position more clearly. I think that participation in the community here makes me a slightly better person.

      Yes, there are some trolls that I try hard to ignore. Occasionally, I weaken and say something snide in the hope that they will go away. And yes, there are some people (okay, a lot of people) who try to be funny and sarcastic but just aren’t very good at it. I would be happier if all our commenters were more sincere. But any community that values free speech must pay the overhead of trolls. Look past them to the subset of good and sincere interactions. It’s worth it.

  12. You are a disgusting racist. I hope this puts an end to your career. Fuck you.

    I know you like to try to turn everything into a drawn out conversation. But I’ve read you for years. This post is enough for me you know you’re a piece of shit.

  13. According to the words of the mayor Libby Schiff, “when it comes to hate crimes, intentions don’t matter”

    Bizaar, as how can we judge the hate in the heart of the perpetrator if the intention, the hate, does not matter?

    Hate crime laws are nothing more than those prosecuting hate crimes are actually unconsciously projecting their own hates and biases onto the thoughts and actions of others. Makes it easier to deal with their own cognitive dissonances.

  14. Whoops. This was supposed to be a top-level comment, not a reply to Dr Ed.
    Trying again.
    ============================================

    Suppose they were nooses. What crime would have been committed by whoever put them up? Littering?! And since it’s not a crime, how can it be a hate crime?

    1. Exactly? And what if they had been burning crosses? So what, that couldn’t possibly have been a crime either…

      1. Actually, a crime in both cases. In the original case, littering. Burning a cross? Can’t burn things in most public places without a burn permit.

        I suppose somebody could visit a park and burn a cross in one of the grills…

  15. I continue to believe that the true reason for “hate crime” laws is to punish terrorist crimes — crimes such as lynchings by the KKK, which were expressly intended not just to harm the person lynched but to scare the public and thus deter behavior by others that the KKK did not want to happen (such as allowing a black person to pass the night in your home, if you lived in a “sundown town”).

    Punishing this motive of bullying third parties is certainly justified, but a better way to do it, in my view, would simply be to let juries draw reasonable inferences about the intentions of the perpetrator whenever a crime does, or attempts to, have that kind of deterrent effect on third parties.

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