Black family that found noose: ’This town has racists and it isn’t safe’

WWNY Black family that found noose: ’This town has racists and it isn’t safe’

MASSENA, N.Y. (WWNY) - Members of a Black family, who found a noose at their Massena home, are speaking out for the first time about chronic racism and the way they were treated by police.

Family members, who wish to remain nameless due to safety concerns, issued a statement Wednesday.

“This extreme act is just one among many terrible racist experiences my family has endured in St. Lawrence County, from neighbors adding confederate flags when my family moves in next door, to people subjecting even our youngest to racial slurs and stereotypes,” one family member said.

According to the family, another member discovered the noose on Saturday, July 25.

“I was out showing my younger brother how to use the mower and I saw the noose laying on some rocks. I felt outraged at first, because I have younger siblings that would be affected by seeing something like that,” the family member said.

When police were called to file a report, the family claims the responding officer declined to take a statement and made a comment that the noose could have been a “dog leash” and that it was probably just teens.

One family member said, “To hear a cop say, ‘It could be a dog leash,’ made me even more upset because this threat was serious. This definitely goes to show that this town has racists and it isn’t safe for any POC (person of color), especially my family, and here’s your proof!”

Later that evening, the family said another officer showed up unannounced and asked for a statement.

On Sunday night, Massena police posted on Facebook, asking anyone with information to come forward.

The Massena Police Department will only confirm it’s investigating the incident. Massena Police Chief Jason Olson responded to 7 News inquiries on the allegations by saying he was not going to comment on any ongoing investigations.

The family said it believes community pressure prompted village police to take the matter seriously.

Family members also said they feel the area is unsafe and are calling for more community action.

“Now, for the first time, we have the attention of the community as a whole, and we are urging municipal officials to take quick and decisive action to address this community-wide issue. We need to insure that these racist acts are unlikely to occur again, to my family or to any other black, indigenous, or non-white family,” the family said in its statement.

The family said it’s being helped by Black Lives Matter Potsdam, which is planning a march this Saturday in Massena.

“Leaving a noose in the yard of a Black family is a clear and dangerous threat. It is an act of the ongoing racism that exists deeply here in St. Lawrence County,” said Jennifer Baxtron of Black Lives Matter Potsdam.

It’s alarming to people working for equality in Massena and other communities. The pastor of Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ says she was disgusted and saddened by the noose incident.

“That somebody in my community would think it was their right to send a message that was meant to intimidate and terrorize a family just because of their color,” said Judith VanKennen, pastor.

Read the full statement:

On Saturday, July 25, 2020, a noose was left at a family’s home in Massena, NY. Regarding the incident, a young adult, the family’s second oldest, shared her perspective, “I was out showing my younger brother how to use the mower and I saw the noose laying on some rocks. I felt outraged at first, because I have younger siblings that would be affected by seeing something like

that.”

When police were called to file a report, the family claims the responding officer declined to take a statement and made a comment that the noose could have been a “dog leash” and that it was probably just teens. Later that evening another officer showed up unannounced and asked for a statement. Massena Police Department (MPD) is now conducting an investigation of this hate crime. The family believes it was primarily the pressure of the concerned community that prompted MPD to take the matter seriously, and are calling for more community action.

When asked, the eldest of the siblings, who lives in Rochester NY said, “This extreme act is just one among many terrible racist experiences my family has endured in St. Lawrence County, from neighbors adding confederate flags when my family moves in next door, to people subjecting even our youngest to racial slurs and stereotypes.” The family says for these reasons

they consider the area unsafe. “Now, for the first time, we have the attention of the community as a whole, and we are urging municipal officials to take quick and decisive action to address this community-wide issue. We need to insure that these racist acts are unlikely to occur again, to my family or to any other black, indiginous, or non-white family.”

BLM Potsdam organizers have been helping the family, and will be centering their concerns following an event this Saturday. Jennifer Baxtron, of Black Lives Matter of Potsdam, NY, has this message for the St. Lawrence County community: “Leaving a noose in the yard of a Black family is a clear and dangerous threat. It is an act of the ongoing racism that exists deeply here in St. Lawrence County. It is past time for this hate that is exposed daily to stop.”

Community members and reporters are invited to attend the BLM Potsdam ‘March to Protect Black Lives’ on Saturday, August 1 at 2:30 pm, beginning at Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ, 39 W. Orvis St., Massena, NY. www.facebook.com/events/766278827478620

The march is immediately following the previously planned Forum on Racial and Economic Justice (Poor People’s Campaign) event from noon to 2 pm in the same location: www.facebook.com/events/1563994533805098

ADDENDUM: Full Quotes for reference

1. From the siblings

Regarding the incident, a young adult of the family targeted shared her perspective, “I was out showing my younger brother how to use the mower and I saw the noose laying on some rocks. I felt outraged at first because I have younger siblings that would be affected by seeing something like that. Then it blew up on social media. I began to feel scared. The facts are that there are closet racists here and it can be very dangerous for us because of them. I’ve experienced racism before but they were never this serious.”

Another of the family adds her feelings on the matter, “I was in shock and upset because I don’t have a clue why this is happening to us. No one deserves this horrible threat. And to hear a cop say, ‘it could be a dog leash,’ made me even more upset because this threat was serious. This definitely goes to show that this town has racists and it isn’t safe for any POC, especially my family, and here’s your proof! I have experienced racism all my life but nothing like this. I’ve been picked on for looking “dirty” and different from all the other kids. I have been called the “N” word many times by kids and adults. There have been incidents where I was targeted by police for “looking like another black girl” and almost getting arrested. I love massena and the memories here but with this happening to us, I don’t even wanna live here. I don’t feel loved or welcomed by the community. I hope this message opens people’s minds that we can all live together as one with no hate in our eyes or hearts. Until then I will stand with BLM to end racism and fight for what’s right for me and other POC! Because all lives can’t matter until black lives matter.”

2. From Potsdam BLM organizers

Jennifer Baxtron, of Black Lives Matter of Potsdam, New York, has this message for the St. Lawrence County community: “Leaving a noose in the yard of a Black family is a clear and dangerous threat. It is an act of the ongoing racism that exists deeply here in St. Lawrence County. It is past time for this hate that is exposed daily to stop. We will not be silent, we will

speak up. We will fight against this ignorance. White people of St. Lawrence County, you have to step up and protect Black people. Stop ignoring the racism, discrimination, scare tactics, assaults, and harassment. Don’t be afraid to call out your racist friend, family member, co-worker, boss, teacher, or classmate. Your silence is not acceptable. Your silence is a big part of the problem.”

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