A noose was removed from telephone lines along Route 15 in Deer Isle on Saturday, according to reports from WDEA. Credit: Courtesy of Mina Mattes

A noose was removed from telephone lines along Route 15 in Deer Isle on Saturday, while nearby Black Lives Matter signs were vandalized the day before. The Hancock County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident.

Photos of the noose began circulating on social media Friday night. It was removed Saturday morning by Jason Lepper of Blue Hill, who saw the “disturbing” photo on Facebook and felt compelled to act. Lepper, an arborist, was able to fetch a pole saw and remove the object from the telephone line himself, though he wonders why it was not removed sooner.

“I knew I couldn’t leave it be if it was still there,” Lepper said.

The hangman’s noose is a powerful visual symbol often directed against Black people to evoke lynchings that were widely practiced in the U.S. South from the end of the Civil War through 1950.

Mina Mattes of Deer Isle, whose Facebook post with a photo her friend had taken of the noose was shared more than 1,000 times as of Saturday morning, said she saw the noose as an escalation of ongoing tensions. She has been organizing peaceful protests in front of the Blue Hill town hall, and said silent protesters were at times confronted with “the most vile, racist stuff.”

“It’s not a surprise to me because I’ve been trying to have these conversations with race about people in our community,” she said.

Mattes characterized the spot on the causeway along Route 15 as a “hotspot for this racist tug of war.” Black Lives Matter signs on telephone poles and private property have been stolen or vandalized over the past week, she said. A white lives matter sign also appeared in the yard of a house near where the noose was put up.

The noose appeared on the Juneteenth holiday, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. It also comes amid ongoing protests over systemic racism and police brutality that have rocked Maine and the nation in the last few months. Local organizers are planning to hold a protest in Deer Isle Village on Sunday.