Florida town condemns placement of a noose found hanging from a country club’s tree

A coastal community in Florida is struggling with a symbol of racism that was found hanging from a tree at a country club: a noose.

According to Town of Belleair officials, two black solid waste workers saw a noose hanging from a tree with a grapefruit on the ground underneath the rope near trash dumpsters at the Belleair County Club’s maintenance facility in late September, WFLA News Channel 8 reported.

The workers told Belleair’s Town Manager J.P. Murphy and Belleair Police Chief William Sohl they believe they were the target of the symbol because the fruit on the ground matches the color of their uniforms.

On Wednesday, the Florida Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Florida) called for a hate crime investigation of the noose, which was found in an isolated section of the country club and appeared to be fashioned from a rope typically used in crabbing and bait trapping.

“From the presidential election’s campaigns up to the midterms, multiple ethnic and religious minorities in Florida have suffered an incessant wave of hate and racism. CAIR-Florida stands strongly against bigotry and hate crimes. We’re calling on the police chief and state and federal law enforcement personnel to investigate this racist incident as a hate crime,” said Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, CAIR-Florida communications director, in a release.

At a Town Commission meeting in October, Murphy condemned the placement of the noose, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“This noose was positioned openly and in plain view, and while we cannot ascertain its purpose or its creator, we do choose to recognize the hateful symbolism of the act,” Murphy said at the meeting. “Very publicly and very loudly we are raising our voices to reject prejudice. We rebuke this act and refuse to be intimidated by the hateful ignorance that breeds such actions.”

Belleair Country Club, near Clearwater, touts itself on its website as the site of Florida’s first golf course, established in 1897.

In November 2017, six fired Miami firefighters were accused of draping a noose over a black colleague’s family photo at Fire Station 12, located on Northwest 46th Street near Charles Hadley Park. Earlier that year, in August, a Pompano Beach firefighter recruit was fired and three others resigned after an investigation into a noose that was hung over a black recruit’s seat.

In April 2008, a noose was found hanging from a tree at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.