A resident who hung a noose on the lawn of his Whittier Street home says it was not racially motivated, but instead was a political statement about how Democrats treat the president.
Peter Young, an avid supporter of President Donald Trump, says the noose was part of a Halloween setup, placed next to a skeleton wearing a Trump mask.
"It's by the Trump skeleton because he is being lynched by the Democratic mob," Young said.
Shortly after Young put up his display Wednesday, photos began to circulate on social media, drawing attention from residents, town officials and politicians, activists and police.
When police responded to the Whittier Street home, Young's father, who owns the property, asked that the noose be taken down, according to police spokesperson Lt. Eddie Guy.
In an interview with The Eagle-Tribune, Peter Young acknowledged the racist history of the noose but reiterated that was not his intention.
Still, it didn't take long for official statements to make their way to the public.
"Whatever his motivation is, the interpretation is concerning to us," state Rep. Tram Nguyen, D-Andover, said in an interview Thursday. "The residents shouldn't have to guess what his motivation is."
Nguyen, state Rep. Frank Moran, D-Lawrence, and state Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, called it "an unwelcome act of hate in our community," in a joint statement Thursday morning.
"Thanks to swift action from our local police, a disturbing and all too familiar image of racism was taken down quickly," they wrote. " ... America’s long and troubled history of slavery and racism still haunts us today. We, as elected leaders, believe it is important to stand together rejecting hate in Andover and elsewhere. This act is not reflective of our caring and diverse communities, but rather an unwelcome message from one individual."
Not long after, the town of Andover sent out its own statement, condemning the “symbol of hate.”
"Symbols and acts of hate have no place in Andover and in every case, they will be actively and thoroughly investigated by the Andover Police Department," the release states.
However, Guy said the police investigation determined there was no racism involved.
"The Andover Police Department takes any type of racial bias seriously when someone makes a complaint that could be racially motivated," Guy said. "In this particular situation, it appears (to be) someone voicing their political opinion. We don't believe there was anything racially motivated about this incident."
He visited the home with police Chief Patrick Keefe and Sgt. Mark Higginbottom.
Higginbottom spoke with Peter Young about how people who called the department perceived the situation.
Young "respected what we had to say," Guy said.
This incident comes amid national racial reckonings that have prompted the town to actively take stock in its own practices.
At a Sept. 28 Select Board meeting Town Manager Andrew Flanagan and board members adopted a goal that focuses expressly on advancing the community’s work around diversity, equity and inclusion. The town will conduct a survey to see how bias is portrayed in the community in the coming weeks.
The Merrimack Valley Black and Brown Voices and Allies wrote in their own statement Wednesday afternoon, "Residents of Andover may think Andover is an inclusive diverse town, but images and attitudes like that resident's sign leave BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) residents fearful, distressed, on high alert and feeling very unsafe in their own homes and town."
The statement continues, "Every BIPOC resident who lives in Andover should feel safe, welcomed and valued. As a community, we must continue to work hard toward the betterment of the place we live in."