Activists Want To Know What Amazon Is Going To Do About Nooses At Construction Site
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
More than a month ago, nooses began appearing at an Amazon warehouse construction site in Connecticut. Police now say that only two of the eight ropes found by the site's workers were actual nooses. As that investigation continues, social justice advocates are trying to work with Amazon and the building's contractor to make sure workers there feel safe. Connecticut Public Radio's Frankie Graziano has more.
FRANKIE GRAZIANO, BYLINE: Windsor, Conn., Police Chief Donald Melanson told NPR this morning only two of eight ropes reported on the site are being investigated as nooses. That's news to Scot X. Esdaile of the NAACP, who's been talking to the contractor.
SCOT X ESDAILE: We've been dealing with this situation for close to six weeks now. Everything that they've told us is that the ropes that they've seen would be considered a noose.
GRAZIANO: For Esdaile, it's more confusion on top of an already confusing situation. He's just trying to make sure workers are OK.
ESDAILE: The most important thing is the individuals that are on the site that are scared, and they shouldn't be scared. They should be able to give a hard day's work and get home safe to their families.
GRAZIANO: The noose is a symbol of hate, and it stresses Keren Prescott out. She led a protest at the site last week.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
KEREN PRESCOTT: Many of our brothers and sisters hung from nooses like the ones that were left here at Amazon.
GRAZIANO: Two protesters chained themselves to a gate. Cornell Lewis was one of them.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
CORNELL LEWIS: OK, we're chained to this fence. And we want to know, what is Amazon going to do?
GRAZIANO: Brad Griggs is a leader on Amazon's economic development team, which moved to secure the site after a seventh noose was reported.
BRAD GRIGGS: We did so after really pushing our developers and the general contractor to take control of this situation.
GRAZIANO: Griggs says Amazon ordered the shutdown even though it hasn't yet taken over the site
GRIGGS: While we believe things were being managed appropriately, you know, looking back, we could have stepped in to assess the situation and understand what steps were being taken maybe a little bit earlier.
GRAZIANO: Griggs says Amazon's reevaluating its partnership with companies currently managing the site, the developer and the contractor. Scannell Properties is the developer. Tim Elam is Scannell's managing director.
TIM ELAM: There is certainly a lot of pressure on us to step up and ensure that we've got all the safety procedures in place. We continue to work with Amazon and our general contractor, RC Andersen, to address and resolve the ongoing issues.
GRAZIANO: And each party says it's working with Esdaile and the NAACP. But is it a partnership? Amazon's Griggs, for example, says he wants Esdaile to hear what's going on from workers, but Esdaile says he hasn't been given much access.
ESDAILE: It took us about five weeks to actually get on the site. When we finally did get on the site, we only were able to talk to one worker on the site.
GRAZIANO: On a given day, anywhere from 400 to 600 people are working to build the future Amazon warehouse. Tim Elam says Scannell has also hired outside help.
ELAM: We've engaged a national, specialty security firm that has taken over quarterbacking all security on the site to make it a safe and secure place to come to work.
GRAZIANO: The Connecticut State Police and FBI are also investigating the nooses found at the site. Amazon, the developer and the contractor are offering a $100,000 reward.
For NPR News, I'm Frankie Graziano in Hartford, Conn.
SHAPIRO: And we should note that Amazon is a financial supporter of NPR.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE BLAZE SONG, "TERRITORY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.