Oregon moves to ban display of nooses, a racist symbol

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FILE - In this April 23, 2018, file photo, is a bronze statue called "Raise Up" that is part of the display at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a new memorial to honor thousands of people killed in racist lynchings in Montgomery, Ala. Some states have already criminalized the display of nooses, including Louisiana, Virginia, California, New York and Connecticut. Oregon's bill, if passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature and signed by the Democratic governor, will make intimidation by display of a noose a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $6,250 fine. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

SALEM, Ore. – Greg Evans, a Black man who joined a parade of witnesses urging Oregon lawmakers to ban the display of nooses, said the issue was personal for him: A member of his family had been lynched over a century ago in South Carolina.

“He was killed basically for offending a white man,” Evans, a member of the Eugene City Council, testified Tuesday. “He was hung by a noose. His body was riddled with bullets, and then he was set on fire.”

Louisiana, Virginia, California, New York, Maryland and Connecticut previously criminalized the display of nooses. The bill under consideration in Oregon would make intimidation by display of a noose a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $6,250 fine.

In Virginia, displaying a noose in public places is now a felony, with a maximum prison term of five years. The state Supreme Court, ruling in the case of a man who hung a life-sized, black mannequin in his front yard, said in 2018 that the law also applies to private property. Two Black families lived in the neighborhood, including one next door.

Last month, a noose was placed on the recycling container of a mixed-race couple in Eugene, Oregon, and their car was spray-painted with a racial epithet, Evans said in an interview. He believes most people who place nooses are fully aware of the pain it causes Black people.

“Some are just kids that are ignorant, that are playing a joke,” Evans said. "But it’s not a joke. It’s not a prank. This is serious business.”

Federal hate crime laws do not address nooses. Amendments were introduced in Congress years ago to specifically include them as an intimidation threat, but nothing has been passed.

In a 2017 report, t he nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative described lynchings and the trauma they caused.