Oregon moves to ban public display of nooses, calling them symbol of racism

‘It's time to call this wave of noose hanging what it is: racial terrorism,’ says witnesses to committee overseeing bill

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 04 March 2021 07:02 EST

Portland mayor blames 'racist' Trump for violence

Lawmakers in Oregon are moving to ban the public display of nooses, after anti-racism campaigners and city leaders petitioned to see the introduction of a bill.

A hearing on Tuesday saw witnesses of past racial abuse — including intimidation by the hanging of a noose in public — appear before Oregon’s senate committee.

They are in the process of considering a bill that would criminalise the racist symbol being seen in public, and become the sixth US state to do so.

The bill would make intimidation by display of a noose a misdemeanour punishable by up to a year in prison and a $6,250 (£4,485) fine.

Ted Wheeler, the mayor of Portland, said he was calling on lawmakers to support the bill, and that it "opens the door for legal remedies" against intimidating people with nooses.

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It comes as records for 2020 revealed a 366 per cent increase in hate crimes and incidents involving racial bias in Oregon — a year in which the state’s biggest city saw weeks of protests against systemic racism following the death of George Floyd.

In a letter to state lawmakers, Mr Wheeler and other city leaders across the state wrote that "the harm to communities impacted by the display of a noose should not be understated.”

One of the witnesses at the hearing Tuesday for the Oregon bill described the effect of the placement of a noose last May at a Portland State University (PSU) construction site.

"It was shocking and terrorising for our community,” said faculty member Kelly Cutler. “Staff and faculty were not only afraid to go to our new building but were afraid to attend PSU in general.”

Another witness, Greg Evans, added that a member of his own family had been lynched over a century ago in South Carolina, in his testimony to Oregon’s senate committee.

"He was killed basically for offending a white man," said Mr Evans, who is also a Eugene city councillor. "He was hung by a noose. His body was riddled with bullets, and then he was set on fire."

Randy Blazak, a sociology professor and hate crime researcher, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that he had testified and that “It's time to call this wave of noose hanging what it is: racial terrorism.”

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

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