A New York judge has resigned following an investigation into a Facebook post he made in 2018.
The post featured an image of a noose with the words, “If we want to Make America Great Again we will have to make evil people fear punishment again.”
Kyle Channing leaves his post in the town of Altona, New York, less than two years after taking office.
Though the investigation was made public this week, Mr Canning had already stepped down in June.
Mr Canning said the post, which was shared just six weeks after he took office in 2018, was meant to be pro-capital punishment and not meant as a reference to President Donald Trump‘s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”
Speaking to the New York Times, Canning said he is a registered Democrat who does not support President Trump. However, the state Commission on Judicial Conduct found that Mr Channing’s post had undermined the integrity and impartiality expected of his position with its racial and political connotations.
Though Mr Canning may not have meant for the post to have racial undertones, the noose is a potent symbol of historical anti-black violence and racist oppression. According to the NAACP, between 1882-1968 there were more than 4,700 known lynchings in the US and 72.7 per cent of those lynched were black. It is likely that the actual number of lynchings was higher.
This comes at a time when hate crimes against African Americans and other minorities have started to climb, a trend many attributed to Mr Trump’s xenophobic and racist comments. Data shows that racism, sexism, and xenophobia were correlated with support for Donald Trump. A 2018 study found that counties that hosted a Trump campaign rally saw a 226 per cent increase in hate crimes compared to similar counties that did not host a rally.
According to documents obtained by Yahoo News earlier this year, 25 of 46 domestic terror suspects were white supremacists. Nearly 50 per cent of hate crimes in 2017 were motivated by anti-black bias, according to the Department of Justice.
Altona, New York, where Mr Canning served, is a small town of less than 3,000 close to the Canadian border where court is held once a week.
Like many judges in New York state, Mr Canning does not have a formal legal education. He was given five days of training in Albany after being elected to his post.
As part of his resignation, Mr Canning has agreed to never accept or seek another judicial post in New York state. In his resignation letter, Mr Canning said that he felt like he was being “coerced” into stepping down, but expressed remorse for offending people and for the inconvenience imposed on the town.