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Nooses found at construction sites in Las Vegas, Toronto, and elsewhere

Spate of Hate

Nooses found at construction sites in Las Vegas, Toronto, and elsewhere

The under-construction Resorts World Las Vegas, a multi-billion dollar hotel-casino complex, pictured in 2019. (Steve Lek/Wikimedia Commons)

Nooses—“one of the most feared symbols in American racial history” as Lonnie Bunch III, founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, referred to them in a 2017 op-ed—have been found at active construction sites in cities including Toronto, Las Vegas, and Portland, Oregon, in recent days, sparking investigations and community outcry.

The discoveries come on the heels of a well-publicized incident in which a teammate of Bubba Wallace, the only full-time Black driver on the stock car racing circuit, reported finding a noose hanging at Wallace’s assigned garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. The discovery followed Wallace speaking out against police brutality and racial injustice and (successfully) calling for NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag at races. The FBI stepped in and determined that Wallace was, in fact, not the victim of a hate crime and that the pull-rope affixed to an overhead door had been there since at least October 2019 (although images of the rope in question made it quite clear that it had been fashioned into a noose).

While local investigations have not yielded any further information about the recent spate of construction site noose discoveries, their very presence is nothing less than abhorrent.

Toronto has experienced a particularly sharp rash of noose incidents, all considered as potential hate crimes, at construction sites. This type of alarming discovery, whether in Canada elsewhere, has little contemporary reported precedent at building sites, many of which are just recently back up and running after pandemic-related pauses. As of writing, four nooses have been found at three different job sites across Toronto during the month of June, per the CBC.

“There is no place at all in this society, in our community … for acts of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism,” Toronto Police Service superintendent Peter Moreira told the crowd at a community rally held this past weekend in the Regent Park neighborhood, where the latest noose was discovered at a residential high-rise construction site. “We look forward to a time when we don’t have to respond to calls like this,” he added. “We don’t know if there is a connection, but we are going to find out if there is.”

Moreira explained to shaken and angered community members that an investigator had been assigned to the incident and would be working with other investigators looking into the two other construction site noose incidents.

On June 10, Black construction workers discovered a pair of nooses while working at Michael Garron Hospital, which is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment, in the East York district. Two weeks after the first discovery, a noose was found inside an under-construction residential tower at 81 Bay Street in downtown Toronto. The first two incidents happened at sites overseen by the same building company, EllisDon, while the latest discovery occurred at a site operated by the Daniels Company. Both companies have also launched internal investigations.

“This is a disgraceful act by someone weak and cowardly,” said Geoff Smith, CEO of EllisDon, in a recent news release. “We will do everything possible to identify, prosecute and evict anyone involved from our industry.” Earlier today, the company also shared a list of other actions that will be taken to address anti-Black racism in light of the noose incidents.

Thousands of miles away from the shores of Lake Ontario in Las Vegas, a single noose was found on June 24 at the delay-plagued $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas hotel-casino development site at the northern end of The Strip. The Las Vegas Police Department was promptly notified and construction firm W.A. Richardson is also launching an investigation. Resorts World Las Vegas condemned the incident, saying in a statement that “there is no excuse for symbols or acts of racism and hatred to be present on our site and will not be tolerated.”

Just one day before a noose was discovered at the Resorts World Las Vegas site, officials in Portland publicly announced that a noose was found at a downtown worksite—the future home of Portland State University, Portland Community College, and Oregon Health & Science University—over a month earlier, on May 20, although the officials said that they weren’t made aware of the “disgusting act of racism” until June 9.

“This act of hatred is heartbreaking,” said officials representing the city and the aforementioned educational institutions in a joint statement. “It is reprehensible. And it is particularly troubling at a moment when our country seems to be waking up— finally— to the legacy of slavery and our collective failure to address anti-Black racism. Incidents like this one, and similar incidents happening around the country, remind us how deeply racism is embedded in our culture and how far we have to go to attain justice for Black Americans.”

Construction Dive has also noted the discovery of a noose, hung from a subcontractors lockbox, at a Facebook data center building site in Altoona, Iowa. The discovery was made by a construction supervisor on June 19—Juneteenth—and prompted project contractor Turner Construction to temporarily shut down the site. Both Turner and Facebook have launched their own internal investigations alongside a separate investigation headed by the Altoona Police Department.