Nooses Found in Illinois High School Football Field Prompt Hate Crime Probe

Two nooses have been found hanging from the metal bleachers of a football field at an Illinois high school, prompting a hate crime investigation.

A group who had gathered to play a game of soccer discovered the makeshift devices made of rope around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday opposite the York Community High School in Elmhurst.

The group contacted police who later found messages on the tape used to attach the nooses to the bleachers.

The tape contained two messages reading "Let them play!" and "Hear us now! Please!", police said in a statement on Monday.

Nooses found on football field
Two nooses were found hanging from metal bleachers at the York Community High School football field in west suburban Elmhurst, Illinois, on Sunday. Google Maps

The incident has prompted a hate crime investigation and police patrols have since increased around the school and surrounding neighborhoods.

Elmhurst Community School District 205 is also aiding with the investigation and condemned the act in a letter issued to parents shortly after the discovery was made.

"Regardless of intent, this act decries the principles, values and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose holiday we paused to celebrate today," the letter read. "We further pledge to be courageous leaders, who will ensure that symbols of hatred, oppression and violence have no place in our school district and in the city of Elmhurst."

An investigation is still underway and additional security cameras have been installed at the school and the stadium.

Elmhurst Police evidence technicians were also on hand to process the scene at the football field.

"The City of Elmhurst has no tolerance for symbols of hatred, oppression and violence," Elmhurst Police Chief Michael Ruth said. "One of our City's core services is to provide safety for the Elmhurst residents and the community."

Newsweek has contacted the Elmhurst Police Department and the York Community High School for comment.

The nooses were found ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, where the U.S. and nations across the world remember the legacy of the Civil Rights leader.

King was a staunch advocate for racial equality and ending segregation. His legacy lives on today in the fight for racial justice demonstrated in Black Lives Matter protests and calls for police reform.

Hate crimes surged nearly 20 percent during the administration of President Donald Trump, according to a new FBI report. The report also showed that hate-motivated murders spiked to their highest number in 28 years.

The FBI's annual reports on hate crime statistics showed that hate crimes increased from 6,121 incidents in 2016 to 7,314 in 2019, a 19.49 percent increase.

Hate-motivated murders spiked to a total of 51 in 2019, the highest number in nearly 3 decades, according to an analysis of the FBI's data conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (CSHE) at California State University. The next-highest number of hate-motivated murders occurred in 2018 with 24 murders. The third-highest number occurred in 1993 and 1995, with 20 murders in each of those years.

The 2019 tally of total hate crimes represents the highest level reported by the FBI in almost a decade. The second-highest annual total of hate crime incidents in the last decade occurred in 2010 with 7,699 incidents.

Of 2019's hate crimes, 57.6 percent were motivated by race, ethnicity or ancestry; 20.1 percent were motivated by religion; 16.7 percent were motivated by sexual orientation; 2.7 percent by gender identity; 2 percent by disability and 0.9 percent by gender.