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The Noose of Anti-Gay Hatred Alive and Well In Santa Ana

Noose hung on door of EQCA office in Santa Ana on 10/28/2010

I picked up a message from my friend Daniel Shad via Facebook about the Hate Incident that occurred at the office of Equality California in Santa Ana. What happened, and how the responding police officers handled the matter raises a few questions for me. But before we get to those, read through Daniel’s commentary from his Facebook posts and the commentary of his volunteer Mel Distel first.

Daniel Shad So… We got to the office today and there was a noose tied to the front door… It wasn’t extremely threatening, but to be safe we called the police to file a report… When the police showed up the male officer said, “Well… Sometimes you just have to live with being a victim.”… Not cool dude. Not cool.

Daniel Shad For those of you wondering about the events of tonight, here is a very good post by Mel Distel about what happened tonight at the EQCA office in Orange County.

What Happened Tonight: Hanging a Noose on Someone’s Door is Not a Crime

by Mel Distel on Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 10:36pm

I’m still shaking as I write this.  I feel confused.

Tonight I arrived to unlock the office while Daniel was picking up scripts at Kinkos. There was a small noose hanging from the door handle.  Being that we are an organization advocating for gay rights, I felt the message like a chill through my spine.  This was intentional.  At the encouragement of fellow activists, I called the Santa Ana Police Department and officers were sent out to our office.

I couldn’t get the image out of my head.  I smoked a cigarette outside the office and my thoughts were spinning.  I felt jumpy, and was startled when any person or car crossed my line of vision.  This was a message of hate, and I felt unsafe.  Inside the office, our phone bankers were shocked and hurting.  They continued on with their phone bank calls (vote for Melissa Fox) and worked to stay focused on the task at hand. 

I could not focus.  I could barely make calls.  I waited for the police to arrive, believing that when they did I would feel safe and affirmed. 

When the police arrived, two officers spoke to Daniel and myself outside.  The male officer dominated the conversation.  There was nothing they could do, of course, there was no suspect and no crime had been committed. The officer said “what it is, is a string on a door.”  My vision got blurry, I was embarrassed and felt stupid for making the call.  I took a deep breath and said “Do you see any correlation between the fact that this is a gay office and there was a noose left on our door in the wake of all of these teen suicides?”  The officer said, “Sometimes you just have to live with being a victim,” and proceeded to mention that his car had been broken into before. As if that’s the same. As if having your stereo stolen is anything like the message “You should kill yourself.”  As if random theft is anything like an act meant to convey hate and stir up fear in the heart of a minority group.

I want to thank Karla for having a long discussion with the sergeant about the situation.  No, it was not legally a hate crime, because there was no crime (just hate). And the officer likely did not intend to come off the way he did.

But I’m still in shock.  I pray that no officer ever tells a bullied teen that, “sometimes you just have to live with being a victim.”  The officer made me feel foolish for being shocked and afraid.  I feel stupid and unjustified.  Our volunteers felt hurt, angered and confused.

I am so grateful for the excellent family of volunteers who came together tonight, supported each other, worked through their emotions, and even made an astonishing number of phone bank calls.

I am sorry for anyone who has experienced hate or intimidation, and my heart goes out to anyone who has reported it and been made to feel stupid for reaching out for help. 

Stay strong, Orange County, the fight for tolerance has not yet been won.


Mel Distel

I have to wonder why the response from the Santa Ana Police officer was so insensitive. Maybe, he didn’t know what to say, maybe he wasn’t informed about how such incidents should be handled.

What Is A Hate Crime?

California Penal Code section 422.55, defines Hate Crime as being a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim: Disability, Gender, Nationality, Race or Ethnicity, Religion, Sexual Orientation, or association with a person or group of persons with one or more of the preceding actual or perceived characteristics.

Examples– painting racist, homophobic and/or religious graffiti on private property; burning a cross on an individual’s lawn; an assault; a criminal threat of violence against an individual or group; attempted murder or murder.

A bias related incident is behavior that is motivated by hate or bias towards a person’s actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation but that is not criminal in nature. Typically these behaviors are protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

If this type of activity escalates to threats being made or carried out against a person or property, or becomes an incitement to commit violence it would be classified as a hate crime.

Examples– the distribution of non-threatening racist flyers in a public place; displaying non-threatening anti-gay or lesbian placards at a parade or funeral; writing a letter to the editor ridiculing people with disabilities; painting racist graffiti on a freeway overpass.

A hate crime or incident may have occurred if any of the following were present:

  • There was a perception that the victim was targeted because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion etc.
  • The perpetrator wrote or spoke in a manner that indicated bias.
  • The date of the incident or crime coincides with a date that is of significance to the victim’s religion, nationality, ethnicity etc.

If the incident did not rise to the level of a crime, it clearly rises to the level of a Hate Incident and the officers should have communicated to the “victims” how to report the incident. However, on its face, there appears to have been a crime committed here.

  • P.C. 11411 – Terrorism of owner or occupant of real property. Placement or display of sign, symbol or other physical impression without authorization, engagement in pattern of conduct, or burning or desecration of religious symbols.
  • If you find that you have been a victim of a hate crime  in Orange County, Contact the Orange County Human Relations Commission at  1-888-NO-2-HATE and report the occurrence OC Human Relations.


    1. Melissa Fox Melissa Fox October 29, 2010

      Clearly this was a hate crime compounded by the Santa Ana police’s validation of the victimization. CA Penal Code Sec. 422.6 provides,
      ” (a) No person …shall by …threat of force, willfully …..intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or laws of the United States in whole or in part because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim listed in subdivision (a) of Section 422.55.”

      422.55 includes:
      (6) Sexual orientation.
      (7) Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics.

      It is well known that threats of violence, when left unanswered, lead to violence. This death threat was a despicable crime and I call for a full and complete investigation of the incident and the Santa Police’s handling of the reporting.

      We cannot sit idly by and allow this to pass.

      Melissa Fox,
      Attorney, Mother, friend of Equality and
      Candidate for the 70th AD

    2. Rusty Kennedy Rusty Kennedy October 29, 2010

      Dear Mel and Daniel and all of the good people volunteering their time in the offices of Equality California:

      On behalf of the County of Orange I want to express our heartfelt sorrow at the hate incident that sought to traumatize your operation.The sad story of teen suicide across our nation, prodded on by the bullying behavior like the use of symbols like this noose, is a national tragedy we all need to learn about.

      OC Human Relations held a forum this week on Cyber Bullying to raise that awareness, and is committed to reaching out to you and all targets of bigotry, hate, bullying and intimidation.

      If you would be open to it, we would like to talk with you directly, to express our empathy, support, and to document this hate incident so that it can be part of our annual report which we use to educate others about the plight of LGBT advocates and other targets of hate crime.

      Please call Eli Reyna, James Armendaris or me at 714-567-7474.Or e-mail me at 


      Rusty Kennedy
      Executive Director
      Orange County Human Relations Commission

      • I was just made aware of this very disturbing incident.
        Rusty I want to thank you for your response and for the involvement of the OC Human Relations Commission.
        I want to let you know that I will be following up with our Police Chief on this matter and to make sure the correct response and appropriate attention is given to this type of crime in our city.

        David Benavides
        Councilman, Santa Ana

      • David Nguyen David Nguyen October 29, 2010

        Please do more than just talk and dialogues. Please take action and change the mindset of law officers serving in Santa Ana and County wide. This way of thinking especially by police officers that it is OK to accept being a victim is outrages. Please do more.


    3. Melissa Fox Melissa Fox October 29, 2010

      Here is my statement on the noose that was left last night at the Orange County Equality California office.

      The noose that was left last night at the Equality California office in Santa Ana is a despicable and hateful act, clearly intended to threaten and intimidate Equality California and other supporters of marriage equality from exercising our Constitutional rights to free speech and free association.

      A noose is an historic symbol of lynching. It is no coincidence that it was left at the Equality California office just days before Election Day.

      I condemn this act of hatred and threat of violence in the strongest terms, and I call on the Santa Ana police department and the Orange County District Attorney to conduct a complete and through investigation.

      I also call on every elected official in Orange County, and all candidates for elected office, to publicly and unequivocally condemn this reprehensible act of domestic terrorism.

      Melissa Fox

    4. Rocky Lore Rocky Lore October 29, 2010

      How do we know that a gay person didn’t hang this noose. Remember the UCSD Library incident where a black person admitted to hanging the noose?

      • courtney courtney October 29, 2010

        If that were the case–and it’s very, very unlikely that it is–we could know that if the POLICE DID THEIR JOB AND INVESTIGATED THIS ATTACK. Instead, they informed victims that hey, sometimes you’ve gotta be a victim. “Take it up the tailpipe,” no doubt was the phrase the officer would’ve liked to use.

    5. Joe Shaw Joe Shaw October 29, 2010

      Actions such as this are reprehensible, should be investigated and if possible, prosecuted.

    6. ry ry October 30, 2010

      And, with what were they to go on? It may have been poorly worded, but that may be the only truth the officer could give you. Was there a camera that hand an angle on the door to show a face? Were they to bring in a forensics team on a door that had scores of different finger prints?

      It is unfortunate, but, sometimes that’s the truth. Without an obvious lead, there’s nothing to be done. IT is no consolation, but righteous indignation does not change the fact that there was, according to the officer on the scene, little for them to actually investigate.

      THis is unlikely to be warmly recieved here, but given the wording of the statute cited, this could be interpreted as scrawling racist speech on a freeway overpass equivalnet, which says it’s protected free speech. The wording is vague. Many are going to say this is insensitive, sorry if you do so, but the implication of ‘go hang yourself’ as some have mentioned here already, “As if having your stereo stolen is anything like the message “You should kill yourself.””, is not directly analogous to ‘we’re coming to kill you’.

      Nobody deserves what you got. As a born and raised SAnta Ana-n(Siemon st and Memory Lane) this is not the OC I want to live in, or remember living in. But, unfortunately, I think the officer was right. There was nothing to go off of.

    7. Chris Prevatt Chris Prevatt Post author | October 30, 2010

      Daniel Shaad posted this update on Facebook Friday night.

      First of all, I want to thank everyone who has been so supportive during this time. I am really happy to know that there are so many people out there looking out for me and the rest of the LGBT community at large. You are all amazing!

      Today was overwhelming to say the least. Since last night both Mel and I have been inundated with emails, facebook messages, text messages and phone calls. Everyone was worried and wanted to help and we are extremely thankful again for that.

      What we did not know until today, was that the Sgt. (who showed after the first two officers arrived last night) ended up filing a crime report late last night despite the fact that the first officer on the scene told us that he would not file a report. So today, police officers were at the office to collect the evidence, interview Mel and I, and launch a full investigation of the situation.

      I am writing to inform all of you who have been so thoughtful in your messages to Mel and I, that the Santa Ana Police Department is now doing their job and from what we can tell, they are doing it well. There is no question that the SAPD needs to do more thorough training with their officers on how to be more sensitive when dealing with potential issues of hate and hopefully they will resolve that matter. But for now, you should all know that the police are investigating this and taking the matter very seriously.

      Thank you all again for your support. It is deeply appreciated.

      • francisco barragan francisco barragan October 30, 2010

        @ Chris:

        1) Thank you for the update and for letting us know that SAPD is conducting an investigation and that the feeling is that they are conducting it professionally.

        2) As citizens we should always condemn hateful acts, especially given that many of our youth and “questioning youth” have been committing suicide because of all the bullying and harassment that they are facing.

        3) However, I am concerned that there were TWO separate ways that this incident was being handled…One Officer said that NO report would be made; and a SECOND Officer did in fact take the time to write a police report, for this very serious crime.

        These TWO separate ways of handling this incident indicates the NEED for proper and IMPROVED TRAINING of our law enforcement as they respond to this type of incidents.

        When the SAPD or any law enforcement are properly trained and conduct themselves professionally, the community’s support and trust of our law enforcement increases along with our increased respect for them.

        I am also glad to know that Councilman David Benavidez will be reviewing this incident with Paul Walters, Chief of Police for Santa Ana. This is another positive development.

        Francisco J. Barragan
        my opinions only and not those of any group

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