Inspired by a noose hanging above a domestic structure near his neighborhood, Gordan Sims has started a petition to make the display of a hangman’s noose illegal. Except in New York, Connecticut, and Virginia, three states where it is illegal no matter what, displaying a noose is illegal throughout the rest of the country only if it is proven to be intimidating.
“The sole purpose of displaying a hangman’s noose is intimidation,” Sims writes on the petition’s Change.org page. “The only thing it stands for is murder and the intimidation of African-Americans, and there should be no more proof needed to have it taken down.”
Sims first saw the noose in a photograph on the group page for Enough Is Enough, one of several local outfits protesting systemic racism and the recent Minneapolis murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer. Sims immediately recognized the house. Though he and his family no longer live in that Eastside neighborhood, they used to walk their dogs along the street where the noose was hanging. One of the ways by which Sims knew the location of the exact property was by its mailbox — it bears the shield of the Fort Worth police department. On her Facebook page, Shirlee Wilkinson, who owns the property with husband Michael Wilkinson, says she is an employee of Fort Worth police. Fort Worth police said she retired as a civilian employee in 2016.
While Sims had noticed the sticker, he said he had never seen the noose, which has since been taken down.
Sims, after viewing the noose in person last week, called Fort Worth police. Sims was told the police could not force the homeowners to take down the noose unless officers could prove it was an instrument of intimidation.
“There may be some discrepancy when you talk about the confederate flag,” Sims said, “but I don’t think there’s a lot of discrepancy in a noose, but that’s just me.”
After the Civil War, the Anti-Defamation League says, the noose was a way for whites to kill or intimidate African-Americans.
Property owner Michael Wilkinson apologized in a personal message to a member of Enough Is Enough.
“Mam,” Michael writes, “by no means am I racist. Never have been never will be. Only reason a hangman noose is on my property was to deter crime. … If I had known it would upset people I would have taken it down. Sorry to have upset you.”
Michael also says the noose has been up for three years, a time element disputed by Sims, who believes he would have noticed the noose earlier had it been up back when he lived in the neighborhood.
“I, personally, was offended by it,” said Sims, who is white and married to a black woman with two biracial sons and a black daughter. “I didn’t like seeing it there. It brought tears to my wife’s eyes, but my biggest thing is it’s a safety concern,” noting that the neighborhood is made up primarily of minorities, mainly African-Americans and Hispanics.
“All it takes is for one of them to see it, and maybe someone will get a little bit too angry, and that puts the [homeowners] in danger.”
Sims also feels that a former police force member should know better. “I just believe the fact that the noose was hung at a Fort Worth police department employee’s home further solidifies the fact that there needs to be more monitoring and vetting of officers and all employees that have anything to do with any law enforcement agency across the nation.”
As of this writing, Sims’ goal of 200 signatures is about 30 short.
Sign the petition at Change.org/p/ft-worth-city-council-to-ban-display-of-the-hangman-s-noose-without-having-to-prove-intent-of-intimidation.