Members of the black community are calling for a boycott of Home Depot in the Wilmington area until the store apologizes and surveillance tapes are released after sisters said they discovered a noose in the store nearly a week ago.
"This is some racist mess," said Lyonni Flowers.
Flowers, who was with her sister Lisa in the store last Friday shopping for a storm door for their elderly mother, said she discovered the noose in aisle 10. A manager cut the noose down and blamed a customer, according to the Flowers. Since then, they've heard nothing but silence.
"No one called me, no one apologized; he wasn't even apologetic during this," said Lyonni Flowers.
"We have yet to hear from the Home Depot at all," said Lisa Flowers. "And I want it to be clear--it wasn't on the ground, it was a hanging noose...I Googled a noose versus a knot, they don't compare. A noose is a noose, and that is what was hanging in the Home Depot--a well-put-together noose, a well-tied noose."
A photograph of Lyonni holding the noose was posted to Facebook and went viral.
In history, the Reverend Chris Bullock of the Canaan Baptist Church said the noose represents a symbol of fear, terror, and hatred.
"The noose was predominantly used by terrorist groups--the KKK, white nationalists--to promote fear in the back community. Fear of what? Fear that you can only go so far as a black man, or black woman, or black family," said Bullock. "Don't move into our neighborhoods, because if you do, we're going to put you on the tree on the noose--that's what it represents, the same thing a burning cross or a swastika promotes."
After the incident went viral, a corporate Home Depot spokeswoman said they're actively cooperating with the investigation.
"We’re appalled and disturbed by this incident. We’re investigating it diligently and are working with law enforcement," said Margaret Smith.
Wednesday night, Delaware State Police released a statement saying a customer had come forward, claiming responsibility for the incident. The customer, according to police, claimed they were experimenting with a "different kind of knot" for a pergola or canopy decoration for a client, and that there was no racial motivation behind the incident.
Police continue to investigate the incident. Smith had no further comment.
"If it was supposed to be there, and if it was OK, he would not have cut it down. [The manager] saw exactly what I saw, and he felt what I felt," said Lyonni Flowers.
"Even if it is related to work, what kind of work are you doing? Are you in the business of sending fear? Are you an idolatrous worshipper of Donald Trump? This hate and fear and divisiveness that's spewing out of his mouth has resurrected, and those who feel like he feel, and so why not send a message in a black community at a store where black people work? I don't believe that this fella was on a job. If he was, he was on the wrong job, doing the wrong thing," said Bullock.
Bullock is calling for Home Depot to release surveillance tapes in the days leading up to the noose's discovery. He's also not buying the customer's claims that there was no racial motivation behind the knot.
"That's total foolishness, a lie, and fabrication. There's a difference between a noose; it takes time, ingenuity, and a certain frame of mind to develop a noose," said Bullock. "I don't think it was an accident. Who just ties a noose because there's nothing else to do?"
Bullock is also calling for a Delaware Attorney General's investigation into the incident and wants to see hate crime charges filed against the customer, who hasn't been identified or charged, at this this point.
"Aisle 10 in Home Depot [here] is not Aisle 10 Home Depot in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia--the old south, if you will. This is a northern city, so that spirit of fear, intimidation, racism, and hate and division is alive and well," the pastor said.
Delaware DOJ spokesman Mat Marshall said they'd follow up accordingly depending on the outcome of the Delaware State Police investigation.
"A noose is an image with a despicable history that carries a cruel and hurtful memory for millions of our sisters and brothers. The noose found in Wilmington has caused understandable outrage in the community, and we empathize with the pain that this has caused. Under Delaware law, hate crime is a charge added to an underlying crime (such as assault or harassment) where there is a specific victim who is targeted because of a protected characteristic, such as race. A police investigation and arrest must present the required evidence of an underlying crime and elements for a hate crime charge to be added," said Marshall.
"If it was a cross that was burning, if it was a swastika, there would be thousands of people out here, but when it's a noose in a black neighborhood," said Bullock. "Home Depot, you are negligent in allowing this to happen and not saying anything."