Chilling Messages

On Oct. 28, a black noose was found hanging from the door of Equality California’s Santa Ana office on Grand Avenue. Yet the most shocking aspect of the incident, according to Mel Distel, the volunteer who first saw the noose, was the police response to the situation, or rather the lack thereof.

Established in 1998, Equality California is the largest nonprofit organization that advocates legal security and equal opportunity for LGBT individuals in California. EQCA is actively involved in the political process, having helped bring to fruition more pieces of civil rights legislation on behalf of the LGBT community than any other regional LGBT organization in the country.

Distel, a phone bank trainer, came across the noose Thursday evening as she prepared to unlock the Equality California office for campaign staff. The organization had been working to promote Democratic Assembly candidate Melissa Fox, among several other Democratic and independent candidates.

The Santa Ana Police Department sent two officers, who declined to comment, one male and one female, to the scene shortly after 6 p.m. Distel recounted the details of her and EQCA Orange County Field Manager Daniel Shad’s encounter with the officers on EQCA’s Facebook profile:

“There was nothing they could do, of course, there was no suspect and no crime had been committed. The officer said ‘what it is, is a string on a door.’ My vision got blurry, I was embarrassed and felt stupid for making the call.  I took a deep breath and said ‘Do you see any correlation between the fact that this is a gay office and there was a noose left on our door in the wake of all of these teen suicides?’  The officer said, ‘Sometimes you just have to live with being a victim,’ and proceeded to mention that his car had been broken into before.”

Mel Distel, who saw the noose as a deliberate and disturbing message, was distressed with the officer’s handling of the matter.

“As if that’s the same,” Distel said. “As if having your stereo stolen is anything like the message ‘You should kill yourself.’ As if random theft is anything like an act meant to convey hate and stir up fear in the heart of a minority group.”

Melissa Fox, recently elected as assemblywoman representing California’s 70th state district, captured the dire implications of the hanging noose in a statement regarding the event.

“A noose is a historic symbol of lynching,” Fox said. “It is no coincidence that it was left at the Equality California office just days before Election Day.”

Fully taking the insinuation into consideration, EQCA is currently planning to report an official complaint with the Santa Ana Police Department for the treatment of this case. Additionally, Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors stated the following in a press release:

“The dismissive and deeply offensive conduct of the police officer who responded to this incident is nothing short of appalling and sends the message that LGBT community members cannot rely on the police for protection against the kind of hatred and prejudice that can lead to violence,” Kors said.

“We urge all Orange County residents to join us in demanding that Santa Ana Chief of Police Paul Walters conduct a thorough investigation into what appears to be an atrocious hate crime, to investigate and discipline the officer in question and to ensure that all officers are properly trained on how to appropriately handle all bias-motivated crimes against LGBT community members moving forward.”

Moreover, some believe the hanging of the noose impacts far more than simply LGBT individuals. According to Nuha Abusamra, anchorwoman of KUCI’s Wednesday newscast “Limbaugh for Liberals,” the incident is a step backwards for the advocacy of human rights and minority communities everywhere.

“It’s not just the LGBT community’s responsibility to remind people of gay rights,” Abusamra said. “It should be everyone’s responsibility to remind people of gay rights. It’s everyone’s responsibility to treat other people as human beings and respect them as equals.”