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Oakland Police Investigating Effigy Found Hanging By Lake Merritt As Hate Crime

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- Police in Oakland confirmed on Thursday afternoon that they are investigating an effigy found hanging from a tree near Lake Merritt with an American flag as a hate crime.

The incident comes the day after police and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced a hate crime investigation by both police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into ropes found hanging from trees in the park.

Police said that they received a call on Thursday morning at 8:20 a.m. from a community member reporting a "fake body hanging from a noose." The caller told police they removed it from a tree in the 2100 block of Lakeshore Avenue, next to Lake Merritt.

Effigy found by Lake Merritt
Oakland Police investigate effigy found by Lake Merritt (OPD)

Oakland patrol officers along with a supervisor and the department's Public Information Officer responded to the scene. Officers found material stuffed in the shape of a human body with a rope tied around the torso and neck that was laying on the ground next to a tree with an American flag lying next to it.

Oakland Police investigate effigy found by Lake Merritt
Oakland Police investigate effigy found by Lake Merritt (OPD)

The Oakland Police Department said they immediately notified the FBI. The two agencies are working closely together in a hate crime investigation to quickly identify the party or parties responsible for the incident.

Oakland police are asking anyone who may have information regarding the incident to come forward and contact investigators at (510) 238- 3728 or call the OPD Hate Crime Hotline at (510) 637-4283.

Earlier Thursday, posts on social media about the effigy stirred outrage.

Effigy found by Lake Merritt
Oakland Police investigate effigy found by Lake Merritt (credit: Christina Hernandez/@nightingalepix)

Two different Twitter users posted about the effigy found hanging from a tree by Lake Merritt Thursday morning. One of the posts was by user @BlakeDontCrack, who had also posted Tuesday about a noose hanging from a tree prior to Wednesday's announcement about the hate crime investigation.

"This morning an EFFIGY (fake body) was found hanging in Lake Merritt in Oakland," the post read. "This comes a day after multiple nooses were found around the lake. Juneteenth celebrations are planned for tomorrow at the Lake. These white supremacists are making their presence known."

The photos showed four or five Oakland police officers at the scene with what looked like a body-shaped mass wrapped in white sheets and rope on the ground at the base of a tree.

The new post had been shared over a 140 in the space of under 90 minutes Thursday.

Photographer Christina Hernandez also posted about the effigy, saying the figure had "jogging pants and American flag."

"Horrified to see that an effigy was hanging from noose at #LakeMerritt this morning," Hernandez said in her post. "Disgusting and disgraceful."

So far Oakland police have not released any information about the discovery.

On Wednesday, five ropes, including one with a noose, that had been found in trees around Lake Merritt were taken down and are currently being investigated as hate crimes, according to Oakland police and Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Oakland officials said the FBI has been notified of the case and given evidence.

Police said that additional patrols would be assigned to Lake Merritt and that department is conducting a full and thorough investigation of the incident.

At a press conference later Wednesday afternoon, Schaaf said that the Oakland Police Department had turned the evidence over to the FBI.

"We have to start with the assumption that these are hate crimes," said Schaaf. "We cannot take these actions lightly. These symbols are symbols of racial violence, and it is incumbent on all of us to have that sensitivity; to have that knowledge."

"It is incumbent on all of us to know the actual history of racial violence, of the terrorism that the noose represents, and that we as a city must remove these terrorizing symbols from the public view and investigate these as hate crimes until further notice," continued Schaaf.

It is against city code to hang anything from public trees, but Mayor Schaaf said in a moment when the wounds of racial injustice are openly bleeding, this isn't just about civic violations.

"We have to see this moment for what it is, a reckoning. And in Oakland we cannot further terrorize or traumatize our black residents," said Schaaf.

Arts Commissioner Theo Williams added that there is no room for hate in Oakland. 

"It's a hate crime and we can't tolerate it. The lake area is intended for families and it's an open public space and it's a safe space we need to have to feel safe," Williams said during a press conference.

"Initial information came in that this was exercise equipment. Some of it may have been, but some of it absolutely was not," said Oakland Parks and Recreation Director J. Nicholas Williams.

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