Amid nationwide protests against police brutality, effigies of three black people hung by their necks turned up on UC Berkeley campus in northern California yesterday—but was it racism or politically inspired art? "We are unsure of the intent," a school spokeswoman tells the AP. The effigies, one female and two male, had the names of lynching victims on them and the dates when they were killed. One effigy with the hashtag #ICantBreathe was named after Laura Nelson, who died by lynching in 1911, Fusion reports. (See a tweeted photo of an effigy here.) "It certainly could have been racially motivated, so we're taking it very seriously and are very interested in finding out who did this," another school rep tells USA Today. No one has claimed responsibility, and police are investigating.
Meanwhile, people are debating whether the effigies are designed to support or terrorize protesters. "This is racial terror they are experiencing," an on-campus Berkeley pastor tells the Oakland Tribune. "These images strewed across campus have terrorized my students." But others call it "guerilla art" reminiscent of Public Enemy's 1992 single, "Hazy Shade of Criminal," the cover of which showed two lynching victims. "To me this suggested a really powerful public art installation" that connects lynching, "state violence against black folks," and the "situation that we're faced with around police brutality and these non-indictments," a Berkeley black studies professor tells the San Francisco Chronicle. Hundreds of protesters marched yesterday in Berkeley, without incident, under minimal police presence. (Protests there last weekend led to violence and six arrests.)