Illinois College Student Charged With Felony Hate Crime For Placing Noose In Campus Elevator

Illinois College Student Charged With Felony Hate Crime For Placing Noose In Campus Elevator

Andrew M. Smith, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Illinois, has been charged with a felony hate crime for allegedly placing a noose inside a campus elevator over the weekend, university police reported.

Students found the noose hanging inside a residence hall elevator on the Urbana-Champaign campus over the weekend. After word spread on social media, a woman who said she was with Smith when he tied the noose called campus police to report him, ABC News reported.

University of Illinois student Andrew Smith hs been charged with a felony hate crime for leaving a noose in a residence hall elevator. Photo: Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, Champaign, Ill.

Smith was arrested and pleaded not guilty. He was released on $5,000 bond. His next court date is scheduled for Oct. 22.

The university was sued in January by three Black employees for racial harassment. The employees claimed they were “exposed to threats of racial violence, such as nooses, swastikas, KKK garb, racist graffiti, and confederate flags,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed in January.

Racial harassment at the University of Illinois is “standard operating procedure,” the plaintiffs said in court documents, according to Illinois Public Media.

Plaintiff Derick Brown, 55, who worked at the university since 2006, described to Illinois Public Media an incident where a white coworker “cut out a rag off a sheet and cut holes in it and put it over his head like the KKK.”

Brown said he filed a formal complaint with the university’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Access but a campus investigation found the racial harassment didn’t violate campus nondiscrimination policies, Brown said.

Lawsuit documents include photos of a noose that was thrown in front of a Black employee in April 2016 by a white campus employee.

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The incident caught the attention of Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, who tweeted, “Our university campuses welcome students from all backgrounds.”

That prompted a call to fight intolerance with tangible action rather than thoughts and prayers.

The noose incident “only serves to remind us that all Illinois public institutions should be free to Black American students (#ADOS) for decades of state-sanctioned segregation,” @BookwormAfro responded. “Your thoughts and prayers mean little —fight intolerance with some tangible action.”

The noose is a symbol of lynchings which were used to terrorize and control Black people, mainly in the South, after slavery ended. There has been an “astonishing absence of any effort to acknowledge, discuss, or address lynching,” according to the Equal Justice Initiative, the leading organization conducting research on lynchings.

In April 2018, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice – the first lynching memorial in the U.S. – opened in Montgomery, Alabama. In December, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill that defined lynching as a federal crime, Kelebogile Zvobgo reported for The Conversation.