Someone went to some great and dangerous lengths to string up eight rope nooses from a railroad bridge over the San Joaquin River north of Fresno over the New Year’s weekend – and one local politician thinks it was a message aimed at him and others over a contentious vote last month over river access.
Fresno police received a report Sunday from someone who spotted the nooses dangling from the steel framework below the BNSF Railway bridge over the river near the Riverside Golf Course in northwest Fresno. Fresno police, in turn, contacted BNSF police to handle the investigation.
“Whoever did it put themselves in a very dangerous position and took a great risk,” said Lena Kent, a BNSF spokeswoman in San Bernardino. “You had to have gotten up underneath that bridge (from above) to do it, or have a lift.”
“They had to get into an area that would have been pretty tough to get to without falling; it’s lucky they weren’t killed doing it,” Kent added. A bridge crew cut the nooses down by Sunday evening. “Our employees had to wear fall protection – harnesses and tethers – to cut them down.”
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Kent said the railroad received an initial report of a couple of nooses under the bridge, but railroad workers didn’t find them the first time. A subsequent report said there were eight nooses, after which employees found them.
Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas doesn’t think the number of nooses and their location over the river is more than just a coincidence. His interpretation is that the eight nooses are related to eight votes – by him and seven other members of the San Joaquin River Conservancy board – in a contentious decision to select Palm and Nees avenues, about seven miles upstream, as a site for public river access over another site near an upscale residential neighborhood on the river bluffs west of Highway 41.
“As chairman of the San Joaquin River Conservancy, I cannot help but notice the eight nooses were to symbolize the eight board members who voted for river access at Palm and Nees,” Borgeas said Wednesday. “Our community is better than this dark and cynical attempt at intimidation.”
The railroad, however, hasn’t determined a motive or who trespassed on the bridge to place the nooses. “It’s still under investigation; we don’t know who put them up or why,” Kent said Wednesday.