Local activists and community members in Claremont, N.H., are demanding answers from police after allegations that a biracial child was badly hurt in a racially motivated incident late last month.
The parents of an 8-year-old boy claim their child was the subject of racist taunts and slurs by a group of teens who intentionally pushed him from a picnic table with a rope tied to his neck on Aug. 28. The incident reportedly happened in the backyard of a home near Barnes Park, according to Valley News.
Since the incident, however, locals say the police have remained hush-hush about the case, citing confidentiality protections for minors. But activists argued that the authorities’ refusal to offer details on the investigation is hampering important community conversations about racism.
“I am upset and saddened and angered about how the police and city officials have chosen to play this,” said Kendra Colburn, a member of the Upper Valley chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice. “[They] all seem like they do not want media attention on this story, and I’m concerned about that.
“I am really concerned that we cannot change what we don’t know about or refuse to look at.”
Mark Hughes, co-founder and executive director of Vermont-based organization Justice for All, agreed, saying residents deserve to know what’s going on.
“Because to not do this feeds into the problem,” Hughes told Valley News, noting that it took more than a week before the incident was made public. This was only after the boy’s mother shared what had happened to her son via Facebook.
Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase on Thursday, Sept. 7, declined to comment on the case, again citing confidentiality laws. Chase did acknowledge, however, that there was an Aug. 28 incident involving minors that was currently being investigated.
The police chief didn’t respond to ABS requests for comment.
In an interview last week, the grandmother of the injured child, Lorrie Slattery, said the family is still trying to piece together details of how the boy wound up with cuts and rope burns around his neck. Slattery said her grandson and a group of older kids were playing in a backyard when the teens began taunting him with racial epithets and throwing sticks and rocks at him. This reportedly wasn’t the first time the teens hurled racial slurs at the child.
The incident escalated when a few of the teens hopped on a picnic table and grabbed a nearby rope holding a tire swing, the grandmother said. It’s unclear how the rope ended up around the boy’s neck, but that’s when Slattery said he was pushed off the table, causing severe injury to his neck. The child was later airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Valley News reported.
Slattery said no adults witnessed the incident, but the family has managed to gather details from other children who saw what happened. Family members are still waiting for additional information from police, however.
“I don’t know all of the legal ramifications, but I do feel strongly that they should be as transparent and open as they can be,” Pastor John Gregory-Davis, who’s also a member of Showing Up for Racial Justice, told Hew Hampsire Public Radio. “To pretend this is just an unfortunate incident between some misguided children is to downplay seriously what happened here.
“The details of the investigation are not as relevant as the fact that an instance like this occurred and what we as a community do about it,” he added.
Slattery said Thursday that her grandson’s wounds are healing and he’s back in school.
Police are still investigating the incident.