Two recent incidents compelled activists to express their concern over racism in Northern New York, and law enforcement agents should make these disturbing acts a top priority for investigation.
On July 25, someone left a noose on the property of a Black family in Massena. The Massena Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Unit is handling this case. Anyone with information is urged to call 315-769-3577.
“Let it be known that the Massena Police Department takes these matters extremely [seriously], and anyone found to be involved in this will be charged to the fullest extent of the law. This will not be tolerated in our community,” Police Chief Jason M. Olson said in an email, according to a story published July 28 by the Watertown Daily Times.
Mayor Timothy J. Currier told Massena residents that city authorities will pursue this matter as vigorously as possible.
“Racist behavior is unacceptable in this community or any community! People from all over the world came to Massena in the middle of the last century to build the St. Lawrence Seaway and NYPA Power Project! Our past is defined by our diversity, and our future will be strengthened,” he wrote on Facebook. “I spoke several times today with [Chief] Olson regarding this, and I can assure you our Police Department is taking this incident [seriously] and we are allocating all the resources necessary to hold those responsible for this hate crime accountable! Every one of us should be disgusted by this and should stand shoulder to shoulder with this family to support them and say in loud and clear terms — not here! Not now, not ever!”
U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Schuylerville; St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Chairman Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg; state Assemblyman Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown; state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton; and state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, issued jointly issued a news release condemning the act.
“This disgusting display of racism must be thoroughly investigated, and the criminals found responsible must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” their statement read. “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 the New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, commended Massena police on their response to the appalling incident.
On July 29, two racist messages were found written in chalk on sidewalks in the Canton. The village Police Department is working with the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office to investigate the matter. People should call 315-386-4561 or 315-379-2222 if they have any relevant information.
“This is incredibly disturbing and has no place in the village of Canton or anywhere else for that matter,” Canton Mayor Michael E. Dalton said, according to a story published July 29 by the Watertown Daily Times. “It is unacceptable and we will not tolerate this or any other display of racism in our community.”
The North Country Poor People’s Campaign held a forum Saturday at Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ in Massena; the event had been planned for a few weeks. This was followed a march in the community organized by Black Lives Matter Potsdam. About 40 people participated in the forum, and more than 140 took part in the march.
It’s good that so many people are making their concerns public. Hatred often grows when few are looking.
Shedding light on bigotry makes other people aware of the ugliness around them. We encourage north country residents to keep up their worthwhile efforts.