What SHOULD be the punishment for hanging a noose?

Starting with Jena, and now at Columbia, we have people hanging nooses.

I understand the symbolism of the noose.

I was reading a recent Jena 6 article, and it mentioned that the 3 students who put up the nooses were suspended, but not prosecuted.

So I ask…

Prosecuted for what? Should they be prosecuted for making a vague threat? How could this type of prosecution be abused?

When the speech codes hit campuses in the late 80s, they were sold as a way to clean up language against minorities. As I recall, however, many of the people who were nailed were minorities themselves guilty of anti-white speech. If we prosecute for hanging a noose, what else can fall under that category?

Assault with a deadly weapon or whatever consequence we already have in place for death threats made with actual weapons.

So a noose is a deadly weapon? You want to define a hunk of rope as a weapon? It is assault when nobody is even holding on to the noose?

There is also not a SPECIFIC threat here - the noose was not pointed at any one student. It was hanging in a tree. You need to prove that this was a threat against someone, as opposed to speech.

Again - my concern is that if you prosecute for that, you might find other symbols, statements, pictures, etc. ALSO becoming something you prosecute.

What’s the penalty for making a death threat by some other means, like a phone call or letter? The penalty for hanging a noose should be the same.

My sister got bitten by a nøøse once.

But a letter or a phone call has a distinct victim. A noose on a tree is not a direct threat.

California’s Penal Code for Death Threats (best I could find - maybe someone can work some Google-Fu on the State of Louisiana).

" is so unequivocal, unconditional, immediate, and specific as to convey to the person threatened"

Nooses in a tree are not immediate, nor are they specific.

I’d give it the same sort of punishment as to those wearing a swastika t-shirt. Total social ostracization (maybe with a healthy kicking too). Shunning is a valuable social punishment in some kind of situations.

As for punishment from the state, probably nothing, unless prosecutable under existing laws against threats.

I think that’s the issue - is it against the law to hang a noose?

  • Honesty

Yes, I agree and I should have included that. The penalty should only apply if there is a specific person or group of people targeted. Like if the noose is hung from a tree in someone’s front yard.

A number of states have laws against cross burning. The Supreme Court partially upheld the Virginia incarnation of the law, but stated that the state had to show intent to intimidate beyond the actual burning of the cross. (In other words, the burning of the cross itself is not prima facie evidence of intimidation.)

Seems that laws against hanging nooses could be justified in the same way as laws against cross burning.

Obviously the penalty should be hanging. It might be a bit draconian, but it atones for it in irony.

Seriously though, this is one for the SCotUS. OT1H it’s a harmless piece of rope, otoh it’s a clear ‘you should be lynched’ message, and free speech issues are complicated as hell with it. I see it as roughly the same as taping a photoshopped picture of the person targeted being hanged, which does not cause them harm but does cause deliberate intimidation/emotional distress/etc…

But who is “you?”

Also, it is NOT clear that the noose hung by the students was meant as a threat. That might be the interpretation by others at the school, that might be the actual intent, but do we have proof that the students who hung the nooses were actually threatening blacks with a lynching?

Again, if we start prosecuting for physical symbols that, in the past, have been a threat - we are going to have a lot of folks being prosecuted (and not just some dumb white kids in LA).

Like the swastika t-shirt, it should be ignored.

If it can reasonably be interpreted as a threat against specific people (my impression of the Jena situation was that a few black people sat under the tree one day. The next day, there were that many nooses. For the purposes of “reasonably interpreted”, assume it’s something like this), then it should be handled as any other death threat should.

If it’s in general (like, some guy hangs a noose in his front yard, not directly in response to the actions of any particular person), then nothing from the state.

Depends on the number of points in the antlers.
Oh you meant noose with an N. Never mind.

Yep, repugnant as it is, if you put it in the front yard of someone, it’s a threat, if you put it in a public square, it’s protected speech.

This wasn’t just a piece of rope hanging on some random tree; it was hung on a person’s office door. I think that has a more immediate effect, threat-wise, than just hanging one in a random public spot.

To me, it’s like the difference between some chucklehead brandishing a gun and saying, “I wanna kill all <whatever>!” and some other chucklehead walking up to one of those <whatevers>, with a gun in his hand, saying, “I’m going to kill you!

A noose hanging anywhere is not any kind of threat, it is a symbol. Symbols have power because of the reaction to them. Once the reaction is gone, the power is gone. The people looking to get a reaction will have to do something else, but they likely won’t because an anonymous noose is cheap and easy and it’s not like actually doing something.

It’s not like a gun at all.

What if someone had a miniature version of a guillotine on their desk? Would that be intimidating? No. Would it call for punishment of any kind? No.

Yeah. You know what they say about analogies. I guess mine wasn’t the best.

I’ll go back to my original point: noose on a random tree in public space might be considered “free speech.” Noose hung on a specific person’s property, or in this case, their office door, is much more specific.

Ask any random African-American what they think the significance is of a noose hanging on their front door, or in their front yard, or of a cross burning on their lawn.

Ask any random Jew what they think the significance is of a swastika painted on their house, or car.

I doubt they’d think it was free speech.