Paul Egan, Detroit News, November 20, 2007
The Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, called Monday for tougher federal laws to deal with displays of nooses, following a spate of incidents around the country in recent months and a noose-hanging incident last week inside a classroom at Central Michigan University.
An adult who acts alone in hanging a noose at a public university would likely face only a one-year misdemeanor under federal civil rights laws, prosecutors in Detroit said Monday.
“The noose represents 100 years of lynching,” Anthony said. “Unfortunately, there is a feeling of tolerance for prejudice and for harassment and for discrimination. It should at the very minimum be a felony.”
Nationally, there have been about 60 noose incidents following the highly publicized “Jena 6” controversy involving the hanging of nooses by white students in Louisiana in 2006 and the subsequent beating of a white student by blacks, said Mark Potok, who monitors hate crimes at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Normally, there are fewer than a dozen noose incidents a year, Potok said.
State justice may be harsher
Although the U.S. Justice Department prides itself as the enforcer and upholder of the nation’s civil rights for blacks and other minorities, it appears the student would face harsher consequences under state prosecution.
Hanging a noose is a two-year felony under Michigan’s Ethnic Intimidation Act.
A conspiracy to hang a noose, involving two or more people, would be a 10-year felony, as would hanging a noose accompanied by the use of fire, violence or use of a dangerous weapon. Hanging a life-size noose accompanied by verbal or written threats that the person displaying the noose intended to use it to hang someone means the person also could likely be charged with a 10-year felony, she said.
U.S. attorney touts successes
Successes Murphy pointed to include the prosecution of Ronald Youngblood, 27, of Ypsilanti, who pleaded guilty in August to burning a cross outside the home of a black family in Sumpter Township. Youngblood faces up to three years in prison when sentenced Nov. 28.
Also, federal prosecutors recently convicted three men who in 2002 tried to burn down the home of a black family in Taylor. Wayland Mullins, 38, got 17 years in prison and a $12,400 fine. Another defendant got eight years in prison.
“We’re disturbed at the reoccurrence and the re-emergence of some of these noose incidents all over the country,” said William Kowalski, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in Detroit.
Michael O’Connor, coordinator of the Detroit FBI’s civil rights program, said the FBI typically gets reports of one or two noose incidents each year.