In an ongoing investigation, the University of Virginia Police Department (UPD) is searching for the person who hung a noose on the statue of Homer on central UVa Grounds early Thursday morning. A UPD safety alert ruled the incident a hate crime.
According to the statement released by UPD, UVa Security reported vandalism on the statue at 4:20 a.m. on Thursday during a routine patrol of central Grounds. The department issued a safety alert to students via email at 7:05 a.m.
Once notified, UPD launched an investigation, during which officials began reviewing security footage from surveillance cameras between Old Cabell Hall and the Lawn, says Deputy Chief Bryant Hall.
The footage shows someone climbing the Homer statue, placing the noose around its neck, and walking away from the area at 11:15 p.m. on Wednesday night, according to the security alert.
According to the UPD report, the suspect appears to be a male wearing a dark-colored jacket, jeans and dark-colored shoes.
Students at UVa late Thursday afternoon said they felt sadness, shock and fear.
“It’s really sad and so disrespectful,” said Bella Holloman, a third-year from McLean.
“It makes me feel for what people of color experience on this campus,” said Niyathi Shah, a second-year student from northern Virginia.
A noose being hung anywhere is shocking, said Peyton Hamlett, a fourth-year from Richmond. But a noose on campus is especially difficult for a Black student to process, said Hamlett, who is Black. Hamlett said he is turning to his circle of support to process the event.
A noose is widely recognized as a symbol of white supremacy and racist intimidation as a weapon commonly used to lynch Black people throughout American history.
Some wondered why in the world the noose was hung on Homer.
“We didn’t understand why it was hung on Homer and not Jefferson,” said fourth-year Lara Arif.
Virginia Code makes the public placement of a noose intending to intimidate a low-grade felony. Virginia law also deems it illegal to display a noose in public at all. Because the suspect has not been identified yet, UVa officials have not yet determined how the suspect will be disciplined once they are caught, UVa spokesperson Brian Coy said.
Virginia Code defines a hate crime as a criminal act, illegal act or any other incident directed against people or property and “intended to intimidate or harass any individual or group” because of their membership in a protected category. Such categories include race, religion, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation or ethnic or national origin.
The University may also have internal rules for students banning acts of intimidation, but officials still do not know whether the perpetrator is a student.
"The facts available indicate that this was an act intended to intimidate members of this community," UVA President Jim Ryan said in a mass email Thursday afternoon. "We will undertake every measure to find out who did this and to hold them accountable."
Meanwhile, the Office of African-American Affairs sent an email on to the Black members of UVa’s student body on Thursday to address the vandalism at Dawson’s Row on August 19, a previous separate act.
Last month, an individual used two rocks to break two window panes of the Luther Porter Jackson Black Cultural Center in the Dawson’s Row area of Charlottesville, according to a UPD community alert. According to the correspondence, UPD ruled out a racially motivated crime. Once identified, UPD arrested and charged the person on Sept. 3.
UPD is awaiting approval from the University to share an image of the suspect with the public to identify them quickly.
“What a sick way to start the semester,” tweeted UVa religion professor and community activist Jalane Schmidt.