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By Willie J. Mims, M.A.

Community Activist

January 3, 2021

Why was the hanging of a noose in Berkeley considered a hate crime, but not the hanging of a human being in Contra Costa County?

On July 22, a black man by the name of Marcus Dukes was found hanging from a tree in Antioch. The Antioch police department automatically ruled it a suicide, even though witnesses heard someone screaming at the exact location of the hanging. Sources have also said that a substantial amount of money was missing from one of Dukes’ bank cards. In the police department’s rush to dismiss this hanging as a suicide, an injustice was done to Dukes and his family. This hanging occurred less than three days after Dukes was released from incarceration. A free man hanging himself? That makes no sense to me! I refuse to accept the Antioch Police Department's flawed investigation. They never even considered the fact that this could have been a hate crime.

A similar injustice was seen in Brentwood, CA when the hanging of a mannequin with a black cap over its face was not considered a hate crime by the Brentwood Police Department. That mannequin was facing the home of a mixed race couple who lived directly across the street from the white man, Eric Harvey, who hung the atrocity on his own property. Harvey has been well-known for years for making and displaying racist comments. Despite this history, the Brentwood Police Department did not consider the hanging mannequin to be a hate crime. Earlier this year, on February 3rd or 4th, somebody hung a rope from a tree at Liberty High School, also located in Brentwood. Again, this was not investigated as a hate crime. Why?

What makes Brentwood and Antioch any different from Berkeley, where the mere hanging of a rope from a tree was considered and charged as a hate crime? Both Brentwood and Antioch are not alone, however, in their failure to address hate crimes within their cities. On October 30th, a physical confrontation took place at a park in Pittsburg between Nicole Terrell, a lone black woman and two men. One white, one Hispanic. It was not classified as a hate crime. One of the men hurled racist comments at Terrell, who had been hit and bruised by one of the men. Yet the Pittsburgh Police Department originally charged Terrell, the victim of this assault by two men. Concerning the two officers who had arrived on the scene, one was white, the other Hispanic, the same nationality of the two men who got into that confrontation with a lone black woman. Were the Pittsburgh Police applying the color line in their original decision to charge this lone black woman with a crime? Why didn't they even consider the racist comments and the assault as possible hate crimes? The answer is as simple as a fly buzzing in one's ear: WE ARE NOT IN BERKELEY. WE ARE IN CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, where in most cases, BLACK LIVES DO NOT MATTER.

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