Since George Floyd’s death by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, there have been protests across the globe in support of police reform and against police brutality. While the rallies have been largely peaceful, there have been fears that they will lead to an increase in violence from white supremacist groups. There has yet to be an organized response by these groups, but there has been an uptick in suspicious deaths—including hangings—of Black men and women. Here, a timeline of some of the deaths over the past three weeks:
Titi Gulley, a transgender woman experiencing homelessness in Portland, was found hanging from a tree in Rocky Butte Park by police officers. It was officially ruled a suicide, but her family disagrees. “[The police] saw a Black man in a tree and who was in a homeless camp, and you wrote him off as being a transient homeless, and you wrote it off as a suicide,” said her mother [Editor’s Note: Titi’s family uses he/him pronouns, although Titi identified as she/her]. According to the Portland Mercury, Gulley’s friends say others saw her murdered and then hung from a tree to make it appear to be a suicide. On June 11, the Portland police department asked the public for information on her death.
Fifty miles north of Los Angeles, Malcolm Harsch was found dead and hanging from a tree in Victorville, California. Harsch’s death was ruled a suicide but his case gained national attention as a result of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. “The explanation of suicide does not seem plausible,” his family said in a statement. “There are many ways to die but considering the current racial tension, a Black man hanging himself from a tree definitely doesn’t sit well with us right now. We want justice not comfortable excuses.” On Monday (June 15), the city of Victorville said it would launch an investigation.
Oluwatoyin Salau went missing on June 6, after tweeting a number of alarming posts that described being sexually assaulted by a man. “Ms. Salau had recently gained attention as a prominent voice in protests in Tallahassee after the death of George Floyd in police custody led to a national reckoning over racism and police violence,” reports The New York Times. “Videos posted to social media showed Ms. Salau making impassioned speeches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.” Her body was discovered June 15, along with 75-year-old AARP volunteer Victoria Sims. A 49-year-old Black man, Aaron Glee Jr., was charged with her murder and kidnapping on June 16.
Oluwatoyin Salau— Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) June 15, 2020
This should not be.
It just should. Not. Be 💔 pic.twitter.com/MsXXfTK8nd
New York City
In Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, the body of Dominique Alexander, 27, was discovered hanging from a tree with a rope around his neck. As with the other recent hangings, officials deemed it a suicide.
Robert Fuller, 24, died by hanging from a tree in Poncitlán Square in Palmdale in Los Angeles County. “Fuller’s family and supporters are pushing back against the department’s assessment [of suicide], saying his death appears to be a lynching,” NPR reports. NPR also noted how there are neo-Nazi groups in the area and actions have been taken by the Justice Department over alleged discriminatory housing and policing practices there. On June 15, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the death will be investigated as a homicide. “We really want to find out the truth of what really happened,” his sister said at a rally near the tree where Fuller was found. “It’s like everything that they’ve been telling us has not been right.”
New Albany, Indiana
Community activist Tyler F. Williams, 29, died from gunshot wounds outside an apartment complex. According to the Courier-Journal, he had organized protests in southern Indiana over the shooting death by police (during a traffic stop) of his brother in April. There is currently no one in custody for the killing.
Robert Forbes, while protesting at a rally against police brutality, was struck and killed by a car that was being driven by a white man. After hitting him, the man pulled over and smoked a cigarette as police officers tended to Forbes and called for an ambulance. The driver was taken into custody for a sobriety test and later released. His sister told NBC affiliate KGET, “I think the driver hitting him was intentional.” It was the third time in Bakersfield that a vehicle hit a protestor, including a 15-year-old girl.
The protester, Robert Forbes, died. Bakersfield police say it was an accident.— Joshua Holland 🔥 (@JoshuaHol) June 6, 2020
Bakersfield is a hotbed of white supremacy, the cops are corrupt AF and if you called Central Casting and asked them to send you a white power dude, they’d send someone who looks just like this. https://t.co/7kuYyxAJmX
Editor’s Note: Titi Gulley’s death occurred in 2019.