DEER ISLE — Residents here and throughout the area were disturbed to see Friday evening that a noose was hung over a utility line on Little Deer Isle Road just before the causeway.
A noose invokes the history of lynching and is used as a hate symbol to target African Americans.
Maine State Police Troop J Commander Rod Charette said the incident was reported Friday and is “under active investigation.”
Blue Hill resident Justin Betts took a photo of the noose hanging from the wire and posted it to his Facebook page on Friday evening. The photo was shared by many residents who agreed with Betts’ comment that it was “completely unacceptable.”
Friday was a day that people in Maine and throughout the U.S. observed as Juneteenth, the 19th of June, which was the date in 1865 that Union Army General Gordon Granger proclaimed all slaves in Texas were free.
Jason Lepper of Blue Hill, who saw Betts’ photo, went out Saturday morning to remove the noose.
Lepper said the noose had been hung over a telephone line—not a power line—so he was able to grab the rope with a pole saw. Lepper is a licensed arborist so he has tools, such as the pole saw, at his disposal.
“This is really disturbing and ugly,” Lepper said.
The removal of the noose was uneventful. No one was around when Lepper took the rope down, he said.
Passers-by were alarmed about the incident.
Dispatchers for the Hancock County Regional Communications Center had gotten calls about the noose Saturday morning.
A Deer Isle resident who shared Betts’ photo, Mina Mattes, said in a Facebook post that earlier in the day signs that proclaimed “Black Lives Matter” had been vandalized and torn down along the road over which the noose had been strung.
Since the police are still investigating, it’s unknown what, if anything, might result from the incident.
“Without a better idea of the circumstances and facts, it is hard to determine if a crime has been committed,” said District Attorney Matt Foster.
However, Foster cited two Maine criminal statutes that could potentially apply to the situation: desecration and defacement or criminal mischief.
According to the Maine Criminal Code, “a person is guilty of desecration and defacement if he intentionally desecrates any public monument or structure, any place of worship or burial, or any private structure not owned by him.”
The code defines what it means to desecrate: “marring, defacing, damaging or otherwise physically mistreating, in a way that will outrage the sensibilities of an ordinary person likely to observe or discover the actions.”
“With regard to the signs, destruction of any property that doesn’t belong to the person damaging it would also possibly be criminal mischief,” Foster said. “If the property were posted ‘no trespassing’ or if there were a fence, then there would be the possibility of a criminal trespass charge as well if the vandal went on to the property to damage the signs.”
“If the sign is on public property, I don’t think there would be much of a remedy,” Foster said. “Campaign signs are protected in public rights-of-way if they conform with the rules, but I don’t know of any protections for other types of signs.”
Criminal mischief arises if a person “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly: damages or destroys the property of another,” according to the Maine statute.