DETROIT — It’s “preposterous” to say that the hanging of nooses may not constitute a hate crime, charged the Rev. David Bullock of the National Council for Community Empowerment at a Nov. 27 press conference of religious leaders here.

Bullock’s comments, made at Bethany Baptist Church, came as part of a dramatic call by he and others for a statewide rally against hate crimes on Dec. 7 in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., about 150 miles northwest of Detroit.

Rev. Bullock, who also represents the city’s Council of Baptist Pastors, said the religious leaders were “deeply disgusted” with the Isabella County prosecutor Larry Burdick’s nonchalant attitude toward the recent hanging of four nooses in a Central Michigan University classroom. The university is located in Mt. Pleasant. The nooses were discovered Nov. 12.

Prosecutor Burdick was quoted as saying that he “suspects” that the noose-hanging incident had no racial content and did not reflect any racial bias, and that it was possibly just a “youthful prank.”

Bullock called those comments “unacceptable,” noting that there is a context for hanging nooses in the United States, and that the practice is unmistakably linked to ethnic intimidation. He said the discovery of the nooses had caused CMU students of African American descent to feel threatened and fearful for their lives, and that the hanging of the nooses clearly constituted a hate crime.

While the person guilty of hanging the nooses has turned himself in, the prosecutor has filed no charges against him.

The prosecutor’s “prank” statement on the nooses was made the previous day in a meeting with the ministers and several CMU students.

In a news release after the nooses were discovered, the university’s president, Michael Rao, said, “This type of activity will not be tolerated at CMU, and we realize that we have much to do to continue our mission of raising awareness and educating everyone on diversity issues.”

This is not the first time the campus has been brought face-to-face with bigotry. Earlier this fall, pamphlets suggesting all Muslims are terrorists were placed under the office doors of some faculty members. No one has been arrested for the incident.

Dr. Oscar King, first vice president of the Council of Baptist Ministers of Detroit, said it is hard to imagine a student who does not understand the significance or consequences of a noose.

“It’s time to stand and make a clear statement to Isabella County and America that this type of behavior will not be tolerated,” King said. “It is a black eye on Isabella County.”

The Rev. Maurice Rudds, another spokesperson at the press conference, said the prosecutor “showed no intent to pursue this matter further.” The pastor remembered his mother “always taught me you don’t play with nooses, swastikas or anything that could infringe on anyone’s human rights.”

Rudds said the young man who turned himself in should be held accountable “to clearly show that such acts will not be tolerated.”

The Rev. Charles Williams II, president of National Council for Community Empowerment, said “regardless of what you call it,” a hate crime has been committed and justice still needs to be served.

Williams called for all concerned to come to the noontime rally on Dec. 7 at the Isabella County prosecutor’s office at the courthouse in downtown Mt. Pleasant. Williams said buses going to the rally will leave at 10:00 a.m. from Bethany Baptist Church, and urged others to encourage other churches to participate. He said more information can be obtained by calling (313) 344-9014.

jrummel @pww.org

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