MASSENA — A thorough investigation of a noose found on a family’s property in the village is encouraged, the New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) said Tuesday, as local lawmakers echoed the need for a rigorous investigation of the “hateful display.”
Congresswoman Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville; St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Chairman Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg; Assemblyman Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown; Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton; and Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-C-I-Rome, released a joint statement Tuesday condemning the incident, calling it “disgusting.”
“This disgusting display of racism must be thoroughly investigated, and the criminals found responsible must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the joint statement reads. “This hateful display has no place in the North Country — or anywhere in our nation — and we condemn it in the strongest terms.”
Afaf Nasher, executive director of CAIR-NY, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, applauded the Massena Police Department for their actions in recognizing the gravity of the incident and launching an investigation.
The department’s Criminal Investigations Unit is handling the case, and Chief Jason M. Olson said every possible resource is being exhausted to carry out the investigation. Neighbors of the family have offered to let police review security footage taken from their residences.
“Racist threats in communities large and small must never be overlooked or underestimated, and we applaud the Massena Police Department for recognizing the severity and threat of such a symbol of hate being flaunted near a family’s home,” Ms. Nasher said in a statement Tuesday. “Residents of Massena must stand in solidarity with this family and all victims of racism and hate-crimes.”
A change.org petition created by Jennifer Mitchell of Potsdam is also circulating the internet, calling for the police to charge those responsible for the incident.
The petition, “Massena, NY police must charge perpetrators who left a noose at a Black family’s home,” includes a letter written to Mayor Timmy J. Currier saying people “urgently need to hear from you” about the incident.
The petition garnered 1,367 signatures of a 1,500-signature goal at the time of this report.
“This is a pivotal moment in our country where we must come together to work against this abhorrent behavior to ensure it never happens again in our communities,” the joint statement from local lawmakers reads. “We call for a full investigation until the criminals are found and prosecuted, and we stand with the affected family in Massena and grieve with them.”
The Potsdam-based Black Lives Matter organizing collective, which is also condemning the incident, has scheduled a racial injustice forum from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday at Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ, 39 West Orvis St., Massena, and a march will begin at 2:30 p.m., heading from the church to the Massena Police Department.
“Leaving a noose in the yard of a Black family is a clear and dangerous threat. It is a hate crime, and an act of the ongoing racism here. It’s past time for this hate that is being exposed daily to stop,” Jennifer Baxtron, the leader of Black Lives Matter Potsdam, said in a statement Tuesday. “We will not be silent, we will speak up. We will fight against this ignorance and we need the White people of St. Lawrence County to join us, to step up for their Black neighbors. Your silence is not acceptable.”
Police did not release the location of the residence where the noose was left, but said it was about a block away from St. Mary’s Church, which is located on Cornell Avenue in the village.
Anyone who has information regarding the origin of the noose, or who was involved in placing it at that location, is “strongly urged” to contact the Massena Police Department at 315-769-3577.
Reporter Bob Beckstead contributed to this report.