Display of a noose — a symbol of lynching Black people — would be considered a crime of intimidation under a bill that has cleared the Oregon Senate.
Senate Bill 398, which passed 27-1 and went to the House, would make it a Class A misdemeanor for such a display if intended to intimidate another person or threaten someone with bodily harm. Maximum punishments are under one year in jail and a $6,250 fine.
"That clinical description does not even come close to describing the hateful motivation that goes behind the placing of a noose, the fear of physical safety and the mental distress on the part of the people to whom it is directed," Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Democrat from Portland and one of the bill's chief sponsors, said.
Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton, likened it to how Jews react to displays of Nazi swastikas. Nazi Germany was responsible for the mass deaths of 6 million Jews, plus others, during the Holocaust in World War II.
Sen. Lew Frederick, a Democrat from Portland and one of three Black senators, noted last year's observance in Coos Bay of the 1902 hanging of Alonzo Tucker, the only documented instance of lynching in Oregon.
He said he is personally acquainted with the noose as a symbol of hate.
"Nooses were a constant image during my time demonstrating in civil rights marches during the 1960s and 1970s," he recalled, especially when Daniel O'Keefe High School in Atlanta was desegregated (it closed in 1973). But he said its white principal did not tolerate such symbols, which Frederick sometimes found on his locker.
"He knew then that the noose was not acceptable in a school environment smack dab in the middle of the South when Jim Crow was slowly being dismantled," Frederick said. "It is certainly not acceptable now, when the vestiges of Jim Crow returned to the forefront because of a wink and nod during the past four years."
Sen. James Manning Jr., a Democrat from Eugene and another Black senator, said Oregon would join the few states that have made it a crime to display a noose.
"Oregon is not the first to act this way," Manning, the bill's other chief sponsor, said. "But we are on the right path."
Sen. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, was the only vote against it. Independent Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas and Republican Sen. Dallas Heard of Roseburg were officially excused. Heard showed up at the end of the April 1 session, but he declined to cast votes on SB 398 or other bills he missed.