Police say five ropes were found Tuesday attached to various trees in a park in Oakland, Calif., and the city's mayor says a hate crime investigation is in the works. NBC Bay Area reports the ropes were tracked down by police after a complaint on social media about a noose in the park near Lake Merritt. In an online post, Mayor Libby Schaaf said the ropes had been taken down and that she'd called the FBI to investigate. "These have no place in our city at any time, but especially in this time," Schaaf said. The Oakland Police Department said "any ropes on or attached to trees, limbs, or other objects can be associated with hate crimes and racial violence," and "we remind and ask our community to be mindful when using this equipment in a recreational manner." Recreational use is exactly what some are claiming the ropes were really for—specifically, exercise.
One man, Victor Sengbe, told ABC7 he was the one who put the ropes up, part of a DIY swing he set up with friends. "Out of the hundreds, thousands of people who walked by, no one even thought it looked anywhere close to a noose," said Sengbe, who is black. Still, Schaaf says that's not an excuse for the "tortuous and terrorizing effects" from people seeing the ropes. Extra police will now be tasked with patrolling the lake. "Regardless of the intentions of whoever put those nooses in our public trees, in our sacred public space here in Oakland, intentions don't matter," she said, per NBC. It's against city code to hang anything from trees, reports CBS News, which notes nooses have been found in Oakland previously over the past few years. (Read more noose stories.)