Police in Washington, D.C., are investigating a noose found Friday hanging from a tree outside a local church as a possible hate crime, a police spokesperson confirmed to The Hill.
Local news station WTOP reported that the rope was found by a technician working with a vocal ensemble at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Matthew Robertson, artistic director for the musical group The Thirteen, told WTOP that the ensemble has been rehearsing a production of Bach’s “Saint John Passion,” in which a Black man is playing the role of Jesus.
Robertson added that the show also seeks to address issues of systemic racism.
“And so it’s unclear whether the church, for their strong progressive stance, was the target, or whether this production was the target,” Robertson told WTOP. “But regardless, we at The Thirteen condemn racism in all its forms.”
Rev. Michele Morgan, rector of the church, told CNN that the presence of the rope was “a desecration.”
"This is a sacred space and that is a symbol of racialized hatred and it has no business in this country and the city and certainly not in a churchyard,” Morgan added.
The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) spokesperson Sean Hickman said in a statement shared with The Hill that officers “are currently investigating this as a possible hate crime."
"These types of offenses are taken seriously and are entirely unacceptable," he added.
MPD said that anyone with information relevant to the incident "is asked to call 202-727-9099 or text your information anonymously to 50411."
D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen tweeted a photo of the noose outside the church, calling it a “despicable symbol & act of hate.”
“Denounce it loud & clear - hate has no home here,” he added.
A noose was found today at St Marks Episcopal Church on the Hill. A despicable symbol & act of hate. MPD has been on scene & is working with church leadership. Denounce it loud & clear - hate has no home here. pic.twitter.com/ClJDwHZnWm— Charles Allen (@charlesallen) March 26, 2021
Morgan told CNN that the church put up a Black Lives Matter banner following the police killing of George Floyd last year, which fueled months of protests and civil unrest throughout the country calling for justice reform and an end to police brutality.
Morgan added that the banner has been replaced multiple times after being stolen twice this year, including once in March.