An Albemarle County man, Shane Dennis, has been charged with intimidation for placing a noose on the statue of Homer at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville news media are reporting. Dennis, who appeared for a bond hearing Tuesday in Albemarle County District Court, also has been charged with contempt of court for misbehaving in the courtroom by refusing to communicate with court officials.
The discovery last month of the noose, which many associate with the lynching of African-Americans, reverberated through the university. The UVa Police Department and President James Ryan promptly declared the act a hate crime. In one of many denunciations emanating from the university community, the Young Democratic Socialists of America @ UVA described the episode as an “act of hate [and] part of a larger, highly coordinated effort by white supremacists to threaten and intimidate the multiracial working-class out of higher education.”
According to The Cavalier Daily, however, the motive was not motivated by race. Police believe Dennis, who is not affiliated with the university, also left a pile of items at the base of the statue over the weekend, including two masks, a “civil peace flag,” a Christian cross, and a sealed envelope. Inside the envelope, a letter contended that the statue, in which Homer is shown sitting by a nude boy, “glorifies pedophilia.”
“[We] are all so blinded by hatred and racial division [that we] refused to see the truth that is hidden in plain sight,” the letter said. ““If you live in reality you will see an old man with a nude adolescent boy in between his legs.”
The letter did not contain any racial or religious references.
“We remain committed to ensuring the University of Virginia is a place where all can feel safe in the spaces where they live, learn and work,” said Ryan in reaction to the arrest. “Although we are relieved that this suspect was apprehended, we will never stop working to ensure that this community is as safe and welcoming as it can be.”
Update: In a press release, the University of Virginia Police Department downplayed the “hate crime” angle, emphasizing that Dennis had been charged with violating a law prohibiting the display of a noose “with intent to intimidate.”
It is not clear from the statement whom Dennis might have been seeking to intimidate other than pedophiles.
This is how the PD statement described the investigation:
“After this incident on the Lawn was first reported, University of Police opened an investigation immediately, working with our local partners and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to identify a suspect and bring charges,” said Tim Longo, the University’s Assistant Vice President for Safety and Security and Chief of Police. “We are grateful to so many people who assisted with this investigation, including members of the community who contacted police and offered helpful information in this case.”