The University Police Department responded to a report of a noose hung around the neck of the Homer Statue Thursday during a patrol of the Lawn. The incident was classified as a hate crime in an email sent to the University community early Thursday morning by Timothy Longo, vice president for security and safety and chief of police. Per the message, the hate crime occurred at 11:15 p.m., but security noticed the noose at approximately 4:20 a.m. and police responded immediately.
Security footage shows a subject climbing the statue, placing a noose around the neck and leaving the area on foot. The subject appears to be a male wearing a dark-colored jacket, jeans and dark-colored shoes.
In a University-wide email sent later Thursday afternoon, University President Jim Ryan addressed and clarified the alert, which left many students confused throughout the day.
Ryan said because a noose is a recognizable symbol of violence closely associated with the lynchings of Black individuals, this led University public safety officials to decide this incident met the criteria of a hate crime.
Per the Code of Virginia, a hate crime is defined as a criminal act, illegal act or any other incident directed against people or property and “intended to intimidate or harass any individual or group” because of their membership in a protected category. Such categories include race, religion, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation or ethnic or national origin.
“I recognize that this morning’s alert was jarring for those who received it,” Ryan said. “There is simply no place in our community for this type of conduct, and we will undertake every measure to find out who did this and to hold them accountable. As that work continues, I want to assure every member of this community that we are working to keep you safe and to make the University of Virginia a place where everyone is welcome, regardless of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, political ideology or other unique characteristics.”
The incident occurred shortly before the Office of African-American Affairs released a statement following a report of vandalism Aug. 19 on Dawson’s Row. This has been home to the OAAA since the office was first created thanks to years of student activism in 1976.
Messaging from the University has maintained the vandalism of Dawson’s Row was not racially motivated. The vandalism and hate crime were “separate and unrelated,” per the statement made Thursday afternoon by Longo and Interim OAAA Dean Michael Mason. The pair said the University quickly began an investigation, repaired the damage and identified a suspect. An individual has since been charged and arrested with a misdemeanor offense.
“From the beginning, the Office of African-American Affairs requested the University handle the matter discreetly so as not to interrupt the grand welcome planned for the incoming students in the Class of 2026,” Longo and Mason said. “ The work of the Office of African-American Affairs continues, and we are grateful for the outpouring of support from the community and the University.”
Several other student groups responded to the incident.
The Black Student Alliance said the hate crime was a symbolic attack against Black students on Grounds.
“The use of the noose is not only an attempt at intimidation, but also an insinuation that Black people are not welcome in the University space,” the statement read. “This is a notion we wholeheartedly reject.”
In Student Council’s regular newsletter, both Black representatives and members of the group’s Executive Board released a statement condemning both the vandalism and hate crime Thursday evening.
“Our existence as Black people at U.Va. has once again been threatened in the past three weeks with two instances of symbolic racial violence,” the statement read. “We call on our University to consistently acknowledge the harm to Black students and demonstrate steps to prevent future hate crimes or escalations.”
Included in the email was a link to the Black Student Alliance’s statement condemning the hate crime, which urged the University to take action immediately.
“To our community, we are here for you and will continue to support you in the face of adversity,” the statement read. “In the spirit of community and resistance, know that you belong at this University and that your presence as a student alone fights the paradigm from which hateful acts like these emerge.”
Anyone with information regarding the incident at the Homer Statue should contact the University Police Department at 434-924-7166.
This story has been updated.