Cara Matthews, Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), May 16, 2008
Displaying a noose with the intention of threatening or harassing someone is now a felony under New York law—punishable by up to four years in prison.
Gov. David Paterson signed the legislation Thursday. It was proposed after the highly publicized “Jena 6” case in Louisiana and elsewhere in the country and some cases in New York.
Last September, a noose was found hanging in a locker room at the Hempstead Police Department on Long Island. The next month, a noose was found hanging on a black professor’s door at Columbia University.
The Southern Poverty Law Center documented nearly 50 incidents of nooses displayed in high schools, workplaces and other venues around the country after the “Jena 6” incident. Normally, the group hears of a dozen or so cases in a year, according to its Web site.
The display of a noose was added to an existing law that makes it a crime of first-degree aggravated harassment to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm a victim chosen for reasons of bias. Displaying swastikas on property without permission from the owner and setting fire to a cross in public view are already included in the statute.
Paterson said there are flaws in the legislation that should be fixed. It should not be limited to victims chosen on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation.
The conduct should be punished regardless of that, he said. The governor recommended a second change—eliminating the part of the law that allows a property owner to give permission for a swastika or noose to be displayed for an intimidating purpose.