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Race, Identity & Faith

St. Louisan Calls For Anti-Racist Action After Noose Is Found Hanging From Her Tree

Julia Ho gestures to where her contractor found a noose hanging in a tree in her back yard. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is investigating.
Chad Davis
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Julia Ho gestures to where her contractor found a noose hanging in a tree in her back yard. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the incident.

Julia Ho picked up her phone last Thursday in outrage when a contractor she hired called with alarming news: Someone had hung a noose from a tree at the house she is renovating.

Ho, an Asian American who has owned the Lemp Avenue property in the Benton Park neighborhood for nearly five years, had been working with the Black contractor for about a year on the renovation.

Ho, who was out of town, was shocked that someone would put a symbol of racism and violence in her yard.

“My first reaction, my first emotion was really just rage that somebody would do this,” Ho said. “This was no sort of amateur thing. This was clearly done by somebody who knew how to do it, and who knew exactly what message they were sending.”

Ho said she and the contractor immediately filed a report with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. A police spokesperson said officers are investigating.

Alderman Dan Guenther, D-9th Ward, said he’s infuriated by the incident and is working with law enforcement to find the people who hung the noose.

“The Neighborhood Stabilization Officer and I have been working closely with our 3rd District Captain, Detectives and the FBI to investigate this event as a hate crime,” Guenther said in a statement. “We will continue to seek out area surveillance cameras, talk with neighbors, and find witnesses that may lead us to identifying those responsible for this hideous act.”

Anti-Asian hate crimes have been rising across the country. The coalition Stop AAPI Hate has recorded 9,081 anti-Asian incidents since March 2020, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 50 nooses have also been reported to have been found at construction sites across the U.S.

It spurred Ho to action. At 2 p.m. Saturday, she and community members will gather outside Venice Cafe in Benton Park to notify neighbors of the incident.

“I want to know what people in my neighborhood think about this, and the best way to do that is to talk to them,” Ho said. “That being said, I don't feel safe going alone, it is very high likelihood that whoever did this is in my immediate vicinity. So it's not something that I can just go and do on my own, and I really need the community to be out there and to support me with it.”

080521_Provided Julia Ho_Benton Park Noose.jpg
Julia Ho
A contractor spotted a noose on Aug. 5 tied to a tree in Julia Ho's backyard. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is investigating.

Neighbors said they were shocked to hear about the incident.

“I wouldn’t expect it, especially over here,” said Max Trumper, a white Lemp Avenue resident who has lived in the neighborhood for about a year. “It seems like a pretty diverse neighborhood, I wouldn’t think that you’d see stuff like that over here.”

Many said they’ve never witnessed racist acts take place in the area.

“If I had any problems or concerns, I would’ve been left,” said Kim Williams, a Black woman who also lives on Lemp Avenue. “Whatever’s going on, I hope they solve it.”

Guenther said the community and white allies of people of color must come together to denounce racism.

“This incident draws attention to the fact that, as allies, we need to do more to live our lives in a way where everyone feels supported and welcomed, where those historically excluded now might feel the full strength of our defense,” Guenther said.

Ho said she’s experienced an outpouring of support from people in the community. But she said while she never expected to see something so vile, she wasn’t surprised. She said racist language has been directed at her before, and she's seen how racism hurts Black St. Louisans.

“What is it that people are doing, especially people who have Black Lives Matter signs in their yard or think of themselves as progressive individuals that live in a neighborhood that is beyond this type of incident,” she said. “What are they willing to do or to change about their behavior or about the neighborhood in order to make sure that this never happens again?"

Ho said she doesn’t know if the noose was meant to intimidate her or her contractor, but it doesn’t matter.

“If you come for all of us, if you come for one of us, you come for all of us,” Ho said. “As an Asian woman who has seen and really experienced and felt the rise in hate crimes and hateful energy towards Asian people over the last two years, I just felt like it was really important to not let this be swept under the rug.”

Follow Chad on Twitter: @iamcdavis

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