An area resident on Saturday removed a noose from a telephone wire in Deer Isle that been hung there the day before, on Juneteenth, the day commemorating the end of slavery in America.

It’s not clear who hung the rope. Residents on social media described it as a deliberate provocation, a reference to the lynching of Black Americans on the day that celebrates their emancipation.

Next to the noose was a sign saying “WHITE LIVES MATTER,” a witness said on Facebook — an inversion of the “Black Lives Matter” slogan that protests the killing of people of color by police.

Jason Lepper of Blue Hill went out Saturday morning to remove the noose, according to The Ellsworth American.

Lepper said the noose had been hung over a telephone line – not a power line – so he was able to grab the rope with a pole saw.

Blue Hill resident Jason Lepper went out Saturday morning to remove this noose from a telephone line in Deer Isle. Jason Lepper photo via The Ellsworth American

“This is really disturbing and ugly,” Lepper said.

Along with large swaths of the country, Deer Isle, a Hancock County town with roughly 1,900 residents, has seen protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in recent weeks.

But residents say the demonstrations have faced a backlash in the community, including confrontations with dissenting residents and the removal of protest signs.

James Fisher, the town manager in Deer Isle, said there had been a “running battle” in town between anti-racism activists and residents who disagree with their message. Signs with competing slogans have appeared around town, and then been painted over during the night, he said.

Fisher spoke with some residents who put out a “white lives matter” sign and “encouraged them to think of a different theme,” he said in an interview Saturday.

But the town manager said he didn’t think the same people were behind the noose.

“Nobody’s happy with it, but nobody knows who put it there either,” he said of the noose. “Nobody wants that.”

Fisher said he had been trying to keep the peace between residents with opposing views. All protests have been peaceful, he said, but it has been difficult to mediate when people take action clandestinely, in the middle of the night.

“I’m trying to de-escalate the situation by talking to anyone who wants to talk and trying to resolve the problem,” Fisher said.

People in Deer Isle are “extremely scared” by the noose incident, said Mina Mattes, who lives just a few miles from the site and passes by it nearly every day.

She said Saturday evening that tensions are high because a resident who lives near the place where the noose was found had put up a “white lives matter” sign recently and complained that it was vandalized. Some others have put up “Black lives matter” signs at the site, near the causeway that leads to Deer Isle, she said.

Mattes said a candlelight vigil was being held Saturday night as a response to the noose incident and a protest in Deer Isle Village will be held Sunday afternoon.

In Portland on Friday, hundreds of people rallied to celebrate Juneteenth with a gathering outside City Hall and, later, a march through the city.

Juneteenth dates to June 19, 1865, the day when Union troops delivered the news to enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that they were finally free. It has since grown into a nationwide celebration, with some people pushing for its recognition as a national holiday.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

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