Officials in two Southern California communities are investigating the hanging deaths of two African American men.
The body of 24-year-old Robert Fuller was found last week in Palmdale, hanging from a tree near City Hall.
Late last month, the body of Malcolm Harsch, who was 38, was also found hanging from a tree in Victorville, near a homeless campsite.
Authorities in both locations initially suspected the men had committed suicide but are now reserving final decisions in response to community uproar and pending further investigation.
Thousands of people turned out Saturday in Palmdale for a memorial for Fuller. Diamond Alexander, Fuller’s sister, said, “We just want the truth. My brother was not suicidal. He was a survivor.”
One woman told the Los Angeles Times that while officials suspected “suicide,” she suspected “a lynching.”
The Harsch family has issued a statement, saying that they “want justice, not comfortable excuses.” They added, “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.”
The U.S. has experienced protests across the country recently in response to the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died after a police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
America has a long history with hanging or lynching black people. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a museum in Montgomery, Alabama, says it is a “national memorial acknowledging the victims of racial terror lynchings.”
The museum says on its website that the memorial “is a sacred space for truth-telling and reflection about racial terror in America and its legacy.”