Suspected of tying a large rope into a hangman’s noose and leaving it on the chair of an African-American colleague, an employee of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia has been placed on administrative leave.
“I don’t know if the intent was for him to see it, or for everyone to see it, or if it was a prank,” said Barry Nickson, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1023, which represents about 400 workers at the mint. “But coming into work the next day, a lot of employees were highly disturbed by what they witnessed.”
The incident occurred around 3 p.m. June 28, said Nickson. He said a white worker — who has not been identified — fashioned the noose from rope typically used to tie up coin bags before they are transported to a vault.
Many African-American workers called and texted Nickson about the incident on Thursday before officials launched an internal investigation, which is being led by the U.S. Treasury Department’s inspector general.
“He was removed from the shop floor and was taken upstairs to the mint police and the mint superintendent for questioning,” Nickson said of the employee who made the noose.
The area where the incident occurred is under surveillance, and Nickson said there is footage of the employee placing the noose in the workspace.
“The investigation is moving ahead quickly,” a U.S. Treasury spokesman said.
Nickson said he does not know of any previous conflict between the man caught on camera making the noose and the employee who appears to have been targeted.
The Treasury spokesman said the department has “absolutely zero tolerance for the kind of misconduct reported at the mint.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has directed that the incident “be handled swiftly and seriously,” said the spokesman, who also spoke to the New York Times, which first reported the incident.
Senior management at the Philadelphia Mint at North Independence Mall has planned mandatory town hall meetings to ease the concerns of employees upset over the apparent hateful display, according to Nickson, who said the first meeting is scheduled sometime this week.
“I’ve never worked at a job where I thought I would see something like this happen,” Nickson said, “especially not on federal government property.”
The exact motive of the suspect is unknown, but Nickson said racial friction in the workplace is not uncommon.
“There’s been racial issues and tension on work assignments and hiring,” he said. “That stuff is a constant.”
Nickson said he has noticed that racial discord at the shop has worsened since the election of President Donald Trump, whose divisive and at times vitriolic remarks, critics say, may be encouraging others to carry out acts of hate.
“It’s like we’re going backwards instead of forward with racial tension,” Nickson said. “I believe it exists at the U.S. Mint, too.”