| Associated Press Writer
May 15, 2008
ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. David Paterson signed legislation Thursday that will make it a felony to display a noose as a threat.
The crime would be punishable by up to four years in prison.
“It is sad that in these modern times there remains a need to address the problem of individuals who use nooses as a means of threat and intimidation,” Paterson said in a statement. “But it is a reality, and if we ignore it we would be derelict in our duty.”
Paterson says the legislation still isn’t enough and New York law will need to be strengthened more.
The symbol of lynchings has shown up in other high-profile incidents around the country _ in a black Coast Guard cadet’s bag, on a Maryland college campus, and in the Jena Six case in Louisiana, where six black teenagers were charged with beating a white student. The incident happened after nooses were hung from a tree on a high school campus there.
New York isn’t the first state to consider making it a crime to threaten with a noose, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Connecticut passed a bill this year making it a misdemeanor unless property is damage, which would be a felony. At least two other states, Louisiana and Maryland, have considered similar legislation.
In New York, the current crime of aggravated harassment in the first degree applies to conduct committed with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm a victim chosen for reasons of bias.
The conduct already covered includes the display of swastikas on property without the permission of the property owner and also the burning of crosses.
This adds the display of a noose to the existing law.
“We cannot stand by while our fellow New Yorkers are subjected to threats and intimidation through display of historic symbols of hatred,” said Sen. Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican who sponsored the Senate version.