A noose a Black mechanic said he found led 100 St. Louis school bus drivers to stop working

The work stoppage began Monday and continued Tuesday for St. Louis drivers employed by Missouri Central School Bus.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Black mechanic for the company that provides school bus services for the St. Louis school district said he found a noose at his workstation, leading at least 100 drivers to stop work in a show of support and NAACP leaders to call for an investigation into whether it was a hate crime.

The work stoppage began Monday and continued Tuesday for St. Louis drivers employed by Missouri Central School Bus. Most after-school activities in St. Louis Public Schools were called off both days. And 56 bus routes were uncovered Tuesday morning, forcing parents to make other plans.

At least 100 drivers of school busses in St. Louis stopped work Monday and Tuesday in a show of support for a Black mechanic who found a noose at his workstation, and NAACP leaders are calling for an investigation into whether it was a hate crime. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube.com/KSDK News)

“The allegations that surfaced Friday from the Missouri Central bus depot are upsetting, and it is our hope that management at Missouri Central will get to the bottom of what is clearly unacceptable behavior,” a statement from St. Louis Public Schools said. It also urged the company and its drivers to find “common ground” to resolve the stoppage.

“The families of Saint Louis Public Schools should not be the ones left suffering in this situation,” the statement says.

Mechanic Amin Mitchell said he found a noose last week at his workstation. Mitchell told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he believed the noose was meant to send a racist message to intimidate him after an argument with a manager over Mitchell’s concern that some bus brakes were inadequate.

Mitchell has worked at the bus company for a few months. In a Facebook post last week, he said that ever since he had been working there, he has filed prejudice complaints against both of his supervisors at least twice a week.

“Today I had enough! I came into work this morning and found a NOOSE!,” the Facebook post said.

Mitchell posted social media video of the noose, fashioned from a thin rope and lying on the floor in the area where he works.

“That’s a message that says, ‘If you don’t stop doing what you’re doing, something bad is going to happen right away,’” Mitchell told the newspaper. He didn’t return messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

In a video he posted on his Facebook page Sunday, he said that he didn’t put the noose there himself, explaining that he’s nearly always the first person to leave work each day, and if he would have left it, someone would have picked it up. He said he’s also among the first to arrive in the morning, and the only other person in the building has to unlock the doors to let him in.

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“I’m not even there at the time where any of this could have possibly happened,” he said in the video. “It was put there for me to see.”

Scott Allen, a regional operations manager for Missouri Central, said in a statement Tuesday that an independent third-party will investigate claims by Mitchell and others of racism, “and we will take whatever action is deemed necessary based on what we learn.”

He said the company is “working diligently to minimize service disruptions for our students, families, and administrators as we understand how important it is for our children to be educated.” The company did not respond to multiple interview requests.

The state, city and county NAACP chapters called Tuesday for a federal or state investigation.

“The noose is a symbol of hate and sends a clear message of racial terror and the potential for violence,” Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. said in a text message.

St. Louis County NAACP President John Bowman said at a news conference in Jefferson City, Missouri, that he has asked the company to meet with him.

“Any time there’s a noose, I can’t help but think it’s a hate crime,” Bowman said.

The drivers are members of Laborers’ International Union of North America. Because their contract does not permit strikes, drivers told the Post-Dispatch, they called in sick with “personal issues.”

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