OAKLAND -- Police launched an investigation Wednesday into a noose found hanging from a truck at Oakland's corporation yard, and top city leaders met for more than two hours with workers to discuss the racially charged incident.

"If we figure out who did it, that person will be a former employee of the city," interim City Administrator Henry Gardner said.

A hanging noose is associated with the lynching of African-Americans in the South. "The symbol is extremely powerful, unmistakably hateful and clearly indicating the hanging of blacks," said Gardner, who is African-American.

Two African-American Public Works employees spotted the noose hanging from a bar on the back of their city-issued pickup truck about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.

City leaders are trying to grasp whether the noose was an isolated incident or a sign of bubbling racial tension at the city's corporation yard.

Gardner, who addressed 150 Public Works employees Wednesday, said he was told that a noose had been found inside a desk several months ago, but no police report was filed. Councilwoman Desley Brooks, who also attended the impromptu meeting, said she heard employees talking about two other noose incidents.

Brooks called for an independent investigation. "Nothing like that should ever happen at anybody's workplace," she said. "Clearly, there are some problems that need to be addressed."

In a prepared statement, police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said that an investigation was underway and that police had "not investigated any similar reports in the last several years."


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Public Works employees are represented by SEIU Local 1021. The union's executive director, Pete Castelli, said Wednesday that workers also wanted an investigation. "No one has any idea why it was there or who did it," he said. "Everyone involved from management to our workers think it's totally unacceptable and want to get to the bottom of it."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.