Earlier Thursday, a man was found hanging from a tree by the neck in Atlanta's Piedmont Park. Around 5 a.m., Atlanta police entered the park to find a man hanging from a tree, and medical first responders pronounced the man dead at the scene. City officials haven't yet said who the man found in Piedmont Park was, but they have said that a medical examiner said the circumstances of his death are consistent with a suicide.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed issued a statement later in the day expressing his grief for the loss of this unidentified man and that they are referring the case to the FBI. He promised Atlantans that he will get to the bottom of the situation in the statement:
Everything we have seen suggests that there was no foul play involved, but I want to state clearly and unequivocally that we will not prejudge the circumstances surrounding this young man's death.
While APD and the city are treating the man's death as a suicide, social media users allege that they saw Ku Klux Klan members handing out flyers in Atlanta the night before and are using the term "lynching" to describe the incident. That claim has not yet been substantiated.
News of the man found hanging in Piedmont Park comes after two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were killed by police within 48 hours of each other.
Many details about the case have yet to be revealed, including but not limited to the victim’s identity. According to county officials, details about the man’s identity won’t be released until they can properly locate and notify his family about what happened to him. All the same, Mayor Reed promised the APD would conduct “a robust investigation into his death.”
As with the other senseless losses of black men the country as a whole and the black community in particular are experiencing, this death is another painful reminder of the current status of racism in America. As more information and the victim’s identity are inevitably revealed, the “lynching or suicide” debate will continue with ferocity. Whether he was murdered in a hate crime or took his own life, the outpouring of grief and anger in his honor are an expression of the value of black lives, and unfortunately come after those lives are lost. We as a nation, and non-black people in particular, must do more to prevent this sort of tragedy, and to finally heal the centuries-deep racial wounds this country has inflicted upon African Americans.