Amazon has suspended work on a fulfillment center in Windsor, Conn., after numerous nooses were found at the construction site in the past month, company officials and investigators say.
The site will remain closed until security measures have been implemented, Amazon told The Washington Post on Friday. The FBI and Connecticut State Police are helping local police with the investigation into the incidents, which are being treated as potential hate crimes. The e-commerce giant is offering a $100,000 reward for information that helps identify the responsible party.
Windsor police officers had been patrolling the site when the seventh noose was discovered early Wednesday afternoon, the department said in a news release. Employees in the area were interviewed, and the rope collected and taken to the state lab for analysis. The work site has no surveillance cameras, and hundreds of workers for various contractors come and go on-site each day.
“The implications of a hanging noose anywhere are unacceptable and will always generate the appropriate investigative response,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David Sundberg, of the agency’s New Haven field division, in a statement emailed to The Post. “We stand united with all of our law enforcement partners across the state in rooting out and applying the rule of law to any individual or group perpetuating hateful ideology and intimidation in our communities.”
Such incidents are not uncommon in the construction industry. In 2020, at least 20 known racist incidents were reported on North American construction sites, according to Construction Dive. Some involved graffiti or verbal abuse, but almost half involved nooses found at worksites from Toronto to Portland.
Scot X Esdaile, president of the Connecticut NAACP, has been following the situation since the first noose was found April 27. Despite repeated inquiries, Esdaile said the group has not been able to get answers from police, contractors or Amazon as to how many Black workers are on the site and whether the company has checked on their welfare. He said company representatives met with him for the first time Thursday but offered little information.
“If there were seven Amazon trucks missing, you’d better bet your bottom dollar that they’d be all over this and they’d find the individuals that were involved,” Esdaile said. “These are human beings, these are people. If they’re doing a real investigation and they’re really adamant about shutting this thing down, they should have done a whole lot better.”
Esdaile has received emails and phone calls from workers who say that there are only a handful of Black people on the site. Many allegedly have been subjected to racist epithets and imagery, he said, and a few have filed complaints with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities about their treatment on the job.
Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said the company is committed to working with Windsor officials to hold the perpetrator or perpetrators accountable.
“We continue to be deeply disturbed by the incidents happening at the construction site in Windsor and have ordered [it] shut down until necessary security measures can be put in place,” Nantel said in a statement emailed to The Post. “Hate, racism or discrimination have no place in our society and are certainly not tolerated by Amazon – whether at a site under construction like this one, or at one that we operate.”
(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
This isn’t the first time nooses have appeared at worksites in Connecticut, Esdaile said, citing an incident at a Royal Bank of Scotland construction site in Stamford in 2007. One was found in 2015 at a construction site for a University of Connecticut health center in Farmington.
“They need to take this seriously and stop playing games,” Esdaile said. “A lot of people’s lives are at stake.”
Work on the Amazon facility in Windsor began late last year and is supposed to be completed in late 2021. Amazon has said that the center will create 1,000 jobs in the next two years and that employees will be paid a $15 hourly wage plus benefits.
Esdaile said he can’t stop thinking about the giant noose that insurrectionists carried during the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. “If they can take over the capital of the most powerful government in the world, what could they do in a little town like Windsor, Connecticut?”