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TUKWILLA, Wash. – King County Metro said it has launched an internal investigation after a statue of a black man was discovered at the base of a flagpole near dangling rope at the south facilities maintenance building in Tukwila.

Metro employee placed the statue there, according to internal emails between the agency’s union and upset employees, who on Monday demanded the termination of anyone involved.

“This item was originally placed near the flag pole by a fellow member, then someone other brought it inside,” replied Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 Maintenance Vice President Cory Rigtrup to Monday’s email from a union member. “There is much more to the story, but the offensive image you are seeing is not the alone work of one of our union brother but also management.”

Rigtrup said in Monday’s email that he had learned about the statue a week prior.

“He was trying to explain away the picture, as opposed to explaining the incident,” said Cheryl Jones, who has worked for King County Metro for more than two decades.

As part of its investigation, Rigtrup said in the email that Metro management took a picture of the statue at the flagpole that recently started circulating among employees and has since made it onto social media.

“It’s an intimidation tactic and I don’t know what they’re capable of,” said Jones, who told us she was “incensed” after finding out about the statue this week. “I should feel safe coming to work.”

Three Metro workers, including Jones, said they had no faith in full accountability and transparency from Metro.

“The people doing these things have no fear of repercussions,” said James Pratt, who has worked for Metro for 25 years. “This has been going on in silence for a week.”

King County Metro said that the statue was “discovered and promptly removed” June 2 and could not immediately say whether any nearby surveillance video had been reviewed.

“The statue was of a person of color – and because of its position near a flagpole – it could be interpreted as a racist symbol and form of harassment, neither of which Metro will tolerate under any terms,” said King County Metro, in part, to KIRO-TV by email. “While it’s not clear what the intention is behind the placement of this statue, it is an unacceptable action that significantly and negatively impacted a number of our colleagues.”

“That’s what I wanted to make sure, that we’re not going to get a bunch of excuses,” Pratt said. He added, “which the excuses started flowing in already.”

Rigtrup told KIRO-TV by email Thursday that the union would not comment “until the facts are known.”

“Local 587 believes in equality, diversity, fairness and champions social justice,” said Rigtrup.

Read the full King County Metro below:

“On June 2, Metro discovered and promptly removed a statue that was left at a flagpole at Metro’s South Facilities Maintenance Building. The statue was of a person of color – and because of its position near a flagpole – it could be interpreted as a racist symbol and form of harassment, neither of which Metro will tolerate under any terms.

“For clarification, the statue was never hanging or otherwise attached to the flagpole. The cord in the image was in the background and connected only to the cleat of the flagpole where the flag was raised.

“An investigation is currently active and underway with Metro’s Equal Employment Opportunity/Equity & Inclusion team. Metro is also working closely with our Transit Employee Labor Relations group.

“We are sharing the above information with all employees within our Facilities Division to be transparent and to reaffirm the steps we are taking to provide a safe, welcoming environment for our employees. We are committed to ensuring that our work environment is free from discrimination.

“While it is not clear what the intention is behind the placement of this statue, it is an unacceptable action that significantly and negatively impacted a number of our colleagues. We have reminded employees of the resources available to anyone who believes they have been discriminated against or believes they have witnessed any form of harassment.”