LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — “Back there we got a food pantry,” said Harlem Turner, the president of the Rose Heights Elk Lodge, while showcasing the services it offers to the community. “Help them get their card, their food stamps and stuff.”
However, this week, Turner said the lodge, which helps many in the Lakeland area, was the site of what appears to be racially-motivated aggression.
Turner said he saw a blue rope hanging from the tree from a distance Monday.
“When I got close enough, then I realized what the problem was. I realized that somebody had been on this property and had a noose,” he said.
Turner is adamant that he feels the perpetrator was sending a message, not to the Elks Lodge which has a predominantly Black customer base, but to him, personally.
“I’m the one that got the mouth. I’m the one that ain’t scared to speak,” said Turner.
To Turner, somebody hanging a noose, a known symbol of racism, is a hate crime.
He calls it a “hateful world.”
“They don’t know who they’re messing with, first of all. Sometimes people bother people and make them shake. You can’t make me shake. My heart is not like that,” said Turner.
Don Brown, the former president of the NAACP Lakeland Chapter, said the sight of the noose is appalling.
“It really offends me because I was very instrumental in having this particular lodge built so I am very much offended by that. In and of itself, it is personal with me,” he said.
A Lakeland police spokesperson said the case is under investigation and it is too early to determine any potential charges.