Massena family who had noose left in their yard say they've had 'terrible racist experiences' in SLC
MASSENA -- Members of the Black family who had a noose left in their yard in Massena have released a statement on the incident saying they’ve had “terrible racist experiences” in St. Lawrence County.
Their statement also criticizes Massena village police for the way they initially handled the incident, which has been under investigation.The press release comes from a person identifying themself as a relative of the family in question. Potsdam Black Lives Matter organizer Jenn Baxtron, who is quoted in the statement, confirmed its authenticity.
The statement says the second oldest sibling, who is young adult age, 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 otherwise unidentified family member is quoted in the release.
The statement asks the public and press to not seek out and identify the family for fear of retaliation against the family.
"My family requests privacy for the sake of its children as they experience the stress of this act," it says. "In detail, we request that reporters should not seek out family members in Massena or online for questions. In addition, the family requests that reporters cease their efforts to locate the family by interviewing others in Massena, as publicizing their location would make them targets for backlash. Under no circumstance should coverage include any identifying information. The safety of my family is paramount."
The statement alleges Massena police when initially handling their complaint didn’t treat it as a possible hate crime.
“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,” the statement says.
Massena Police Chief Jason Olson declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Massena police earlier this week released a statement saying they are treating the investigation seriously and ask anyone with information on the case to call them at 315-769-3577.
"This case is being handled by our Criminal Investigations unit and every possible resource is being utilized during this investigation," Massena Police said in a news release earlier this week. "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."
The family’s statement goes on to quote a person identified only as "the eldest of the siblings, who lives in Rochester." That person’s quote says the family has "many terrible racist experiences" in the area.
Potsdam's Black Lives Matter group is planning a March to Protect Black Lives in Massena this weekend in response to the incident.
“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, indigenous, or non-white family," Baxtron said in the release from the Massena family.
The public is welcome to attend the march on Saturday, August 1 at 2:30 p.m., beginning at Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ, 39 W. Orvis St., Massena. More info on the march: 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 p.m. in the same location. More info on the forum: www.facebook.com/events/1563994533805098