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Effigies of Black People Found Hanging at UC Berkeley Campus: Racially Motivated or Protest Against Police Violence?

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Disturbing effigies of black people were found at the University of California Berkeley campus. Two of these three cardboard cutouts that depict lynched African-Americans were found hanging from the university's Sather Gate just after 9 a.m. on Dec. 13, and the third was found in a tree near the campus.

School spokesperson Amy Hamaoui said that it is not yet clear who is responsible for placing the effigies, two of which were labeled "I can't breathe," presumed to be in reference to the last words of Eric Garner.

The 43-year-old African-American, who was arrested for reportedly selling loose cigarettes, died in July after a white police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, put him in what many see as a chokehold. On Dec. 3, a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer, prompting a series of protests.

In apparent response to the jury's decision, thousands of people in Washington, New York and other key cities took to the streets on Saturday for the National Day of Resistance. Demonstrators protested against racial profiling and police brutality, which many believe have led to the deaths of people of color, particularly young black men.

Since the incident at UC Berkeley also happened on Saturday, Hamaoui said it may be connected to a nearby demonstration that was intended to coincide with the national protests.

Claire Holmes from the university's communications and public affairs office said that police are still trying to know the motive behind the effigies, noting that it could either be racially motivated or a statement of protest against racial profiling and police violence.

Holmes said that while the display appeared to protest against the violence toward black people, the real intent of the effigies was not made clear.

"It could be racially motivated. It could be part of a statement in support of the people protesting police violence," Holmes said. "We are looking at it from both aspects."

Berkeley student Spencer Pritchard said that he hopes the person responsible is someone who aimed to bring attention to the issue. Pritchard, an organizer of one of Saturday's demonstrations, said that there were about 200 people in Berkeley who demonstrated to show black lives matter.

One of the effigies depicted Laura Nelson, who was raped and hanged with her 18-year-old son in Oklahoma in 1911 after the latter was accused of killing a sheriff at their home.

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