The scenic west London area of Warbler Woods, known for hiking and sightseeing, was the site of what many residents and police are calling a hate incident.
A social media post Monday showing a noose that was hanging from a tree near one of the entrances to the woods quickly spread as many were quick to admonish the act.
Found this hung in a tree in Warbler Woods today. Lots of families from all cultures walk here. Called the @lpsmediaoffice because I found a noose in a public area. Their response: “What can we do? It’s just a rope in a tree.” #BLM #outrageous pic.twitter.com/syXnrCn3pM— Sara MacDonald (@DrSaraMacDonald) September 7, 2020
Dr. Javeed Sukera, chair of the London Police Board and also a resident of the neighbourhood, reacted tweeting "...a noose is never 'just' a piece of rope. It's a direct threat to my family."
The statement refers to a claim made in the original tweet, saying London police allegedly responded to her call by saying, 'What can we do? It's just a piece of rope.'
Dear neighbour: I don’t know if it was you who hung the noose in the woods outside our home. Maybe it was someone from outside the neighbourhood. What I want you to know is that a noose is never ‘just’ a piece of rope. It is a direct threat to my family and I...— Javeed Sukhera MD PhD (@javeedsukhera) September 7, 2020
London Police Chief Steve Williams weighed in Tuesday by way of a written news release.
"The decision not to dispatch officers at the outset was made from the perspective of criminality and any immediate threat to anyone's safety, versus the deeper impact it may have in the community as a hate incident."
Williams added in the statement, "The response was not as swift as I expect and not what the community deserves, but I am thankful this matter was brought to my attention so it could be given the appropriate attention and apologize for our delayed response."
Leroy Hibbert is the multicultural outreach manager at LUSO Community services, and says a noose displayed as it was, has only one meaning for a black person.
"Many times, what goes into their minds is what that symbolizes for people that looked like them in the past, and that's why it affects us so greatly in the present."
According to another resident near Warbler Woods, who asked to be only identified as 'Andrea' there has been an increase in hate signs over the last few years.
"My husband and I were hiking with our dog in the early spring and we noticed a swastika that had been urinated into the snow, and we noticed the N-word spray painted on a tree."
Not understanding the greater emotional impact on black people of such signs is something Hibbert says can only change through conversation.
"They just look at it as a rope. With a large end on it. But what happened with that rope with the hoop at the bottom of it, when you actually pull on that hoop, it actually makes the hoop smaller, and they used that to tie around our necks before they hung us from trees and various things to control us."
Police released the information garnered from the investigation thus far on Tuesday, and are asking for anyone with more information to come forward by calling the London Police Service or Crime Stoppers.