Candace Nadeen Breen ignored her neighbor’s political expressions for years.
The neighbor, Laura Larrivee, is an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump. She planted large Trump signs and flags in front of her home, decorated her yard with fake tombstones for Colin Kaepernick and Hillary Clinton for Halloween, and started sprinkling her garden with #stopthesteal signs after Trump was defeated in last year’s presidential election.
Breen, a Black woman, called them “microaggressions.” But she never paid Larrivee much attention, chalking it up as her right to free speech. That was until the neighbor’s free speech crossed the property line and spilled over onto Breen’s doorstep recently.
Breen received an alarming letter asking her to remove Black Lives Matter flags from her front yard. The letter, which had no return address or signature, was delivered to Breen’s Barrington, Rhode Island, home on Jan. 20, the day of Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration. It was addressed to “Neighbor” and postmarked Jan. 16 in Boston, about 60 miles from Breen’s house.
“Please remove your black lives matter Marxist anti-American paraphernalia as well as well,” one portion of the letter stated. “The angry black lives matter has taken in billions and billions of dollars and never helped one black person and yet you bow down to this group. This is an embarrassment to this country.”
Breen says police traced the letter back to Larrivee and officers told her the neighbor admitted to being the person who sent the letter.
“This was a crime. It was an invasion of our space, it came into our house, and it’s wrong,” Breen told Atlanta Black Star. “The letter was so unhinged. It was a rant that really made no sense. None whatsoever. And those kind of people can get violent.”
Breen said the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspectors Service is now investigating Larrivee’s letter.
Gary Dantzler, executive director of Rode Island’s Black Lives Matter chapter, told GoLocalProv that FBI investigators questioned him about the incident. According to the news site, Larrivee refused to answer questions when contacted by a reporter.
Authorities have not filed charges against Larrivee. Barrington Police Chief Dino DeCrescenzo would not confirm Thursday that she was the person who sent the letter, saying the matter is still part of an open investigation. He was unaware of any investigations by the FBI or Postal inspectors.
“They have not reached out to us and they normally would if they have an active open case,” DeCrescenzo said in an email.
DeCrescenzo told EastBayRI several other residents with Black Lives Matter yard flags received the letter as well, yet none of the other recipients were Black. The police chief said an initial review of the letters revealed nothing unlawful.
Sending hate mail through the Postal Service is a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison. But the mail must contain threats to harm, kidnap or requests for ransom to rise to that level.
“It’s nothing threatening,” DeCrescenzo said. “It’s political propaganda.”
Breen found it very upsetting to learn that the person who sent the letter lives right next door.
“I felt very, very unsafe. This was hate,” she said. “I didn’t ask for this. I never, ever, ever bothered that person. Never sent them an email, never talked about them on social media. We aren’t like that, we don’t do that, which is why it’s very surprising that they came my way with that nonsense.”
The convoluted letter regurgitated many unfounded conspiracy theories that embodied Trump’s presidency. The front page, which was typewritten, accused Biden and his son, Hunter, of being pedophiles. The letter alluded to Biden being investigated by the Ukrainian government, a probe that was closed in November after Ukrainian authorities found no evidence of wrongdoing. It went on to describe Democrats as “disgusting filthy Americans” while extolling Trump as the greatest president in American history.
“I know you don’t know this because you are brainwashed by the media that you watch, but the election was hacked by foreign entities,” the letter stated. “Joe Biden did not win, Donald Trump is the winner and at some point the truth will come out. It saddens me that so many of my fellow Americans are blind to the truth and think and act exactly like the mainstream media tells them.”
The rantings continued with a handwritten message on the back page, espousing debunked claims that Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters were responsible for the Jan. 6 Capitol riots in Washington. There was also a collage of images included in the envelope. The eight pics, which Breen said were photoshopped, showed Biden rubbing women and children’s shoulders and pecking some of them with kisses on the cheek.
“Stop watching CNN you are brain dead,” it stated. “Wake up. You voted for communism you idiot!”
Breen and her family moved to their Barrington home in 2012. A former schoolteacher, Breen and her husband were lured to the town by its public school system. She’s raised her son, 9, and daughter, 12, in the home.
Breen said she hung the BLM garden flags in her front yard shortly after the George Floyd killing and they’ve been there ever since. The flags did not cause an issue until Jan. 20. Breen and her family were watching the inauguration when their mail was delivered. Larrivee’s letter was clustered amid the daily assortment of bills, coupons and promo offers.
“I felt like I was in a dream. I said, ‘this can’t be real,'” Breen thought when she read the incoherent note. “The thing was, my children were there and they saw me open it. They were looking over my shoulder, and what am I supposed to do? I didn’t prepare them for something like this.”
Breen said the incident has “taken the wind out of her sails” and demanded Larrivee be held accountable
“It’s not right, that someone feels empowered enough to send mail through the U.S. Postal Service stamped and everything that is filled with hate. You don’t have the right to do that to someone,” she said. “If you’re that proud that you sent the letter, then there has to be consequences. We can’t keep sending the message that people can do whatever they want to other people and walk away. Because that person to who it happens to is left in a mess.”
Larrivee is no stranger to controversy in Barrington. She’s known as an agitator in the Bristol County suburb. An avid MAGA loyalist, she runs a Facebook page titled “RI Warriors for Trump.” Larrivee organized a boat rally for the ex-commander-in-chief over the summer and has helped stage pro-Trump rallies on the steps of the Rhode Island State House.
Earlier this month, Larrivee claimed she was being targeted.
“So in the latest display of unity and love from the [sic] Demoncrats, they have gotten BLM to come after me again,” Larrivee wrote in a Jan. 11 post on the Warriors for Trump page. She suggested members of BLM Rhode Island had “infiltrated our group. Everyone say hello to the trolls and if you come across one let me know so we can throw their slimy a—es out.”
Larrivee caught flak last June when she attacked Planned Parenthood and “Obamacare” in a video she posted on TikTok.
“If you’d like to talk about death, maybe we could start by talking about the over 300,000 abortions Planned Parenthood performs every year, the majority of them Black babies,” she said during the video. “Because I thought Black lives mattered. Apparently not.”
The video ignited online and social media pushes to get Larrivee fired from her job as a supervisor for the Rhode Island Department of Human Services.
Alisha Pina, a spokesman for the state agency, confirmed Thursday that Larrivee remains employed by DHS. She declined to say if the woman is or has been subject to any internal investigations.
Larrivee spoke about the incident during an Oct. 19 interview on the “In the Dugout” podcast, saying she was investigated and placed on an indefinite administrative leave after the video.
On Oct. 8, BLM protesters rallied outside Larrivee’s DHS office in Pawtucket after she was quoted by WJAR-10, a local news station, advocating for a Black Lives Matter flag to be taken down from the Barrington Town Hall.
Larrivee claimed she was “horrified,” telling “In the Dugout” host Mike Stenhouse: “I can’t believe this is my life. It’s surreal. But it was scary.
“She has a reputation for being playing the victim very well,” Breen said of Larrivee. “Especially when she starts things. She does a lot of starting stuff. She’s a bully. It’s just bullying, plain and simple.”
English teacher, Breen has authored six books, including three memoirs of her personal journey as a domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse survivor. She says the recent incident triggered some old emotional wounds.
“It is absolutely terrifying,” Breen said of knowing Larrivee lives next door. “That goes through my mind every day since the incident. I never thought it would come to this where someone would reach over and touch us. But it happened.”
Breen’s had trouble sleeping, worrying about the threat next door. She got a restraining order against her neighbor on Jan. 24. That came after she said Larrivee walked on her property to talk to her as Breen and her husband were outside cleaning their garage.
“I’m just just like a deer in the headlights,” Breen recalled. “I was completely shocked and completely frozen. And my husband, he’s always so cool, he just jumped in and said, ‘No, you can’t talk to us. It is not a good time.'”
Breen’s found some refuge in the support from her community. Neighbors have flown Black Lives Matter flags in their yards and placed “We Stand with Candace” signs in their windows as a show of solidarity.
“That energy makes me feel less afraid,” she admitted. “And also now there are more eyeballs on the situation, I feel that there’s more people looking and watching.”
But Breen, now a metaphysical spiritualist and minister, has leaned most heavily on her faith to thrust her through the recent experience.
“I definitely rely upon my ancestors to guide me and help me and to direct me, because they want to,” she said. “They want to see their blood prosper and continue the legacy. So I learn a lot from from them. And with this situation, I have been talking to them quite a lot…I feel that they’ve given me strength and they’re showing me how the community is helping and bonding together.”