The mayor of a small Oregon city believes someone has threatened him and a Black politician with a racially charged symbol of hate.
The person reportedly left a dead raccoon with a hideous message of hate at Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch’s law office’s front door.
The Redmond Police Department and City Manager Keith Witcosky were contacted immediately after the raccoon was discovered, prompting the police to start investigating the Monday, June 5 incident, possibly as a hate crime.
The note with the dead animal left outside Fitch’s office named both him and Councilor Clifford Evelyn and contained a message that the mayor called “racially hateful” and ‘Intimidating.’
“It was clearly in my mind a hate message, mostly towards Councilor Evelyn,” Fitch said.
An image of the sign was circulated in a press release but was intentionally blurred “to maintain the integrity of the investigation,” said city spokeswoman Heather Cassaro.
The mayor, who is white, did not go into details about the sign but said he felt bad for the councilperson.
“It seems there’s some people in town that can’t accept the fact that Clifford is Black and is on the City Council,” he said in an interview with The Bulletin.
Evelyn, a retired police officer, was elected to office in 2021 with a promise to be a voice for the people of Redmond.
As a voice that represents “character, integrity, and transparency,” Evelyn is not afraid to talk about his views on Critical Race Theory.
He believes the community, including educators, churches and families, all have a responsibility to teach American history honestly. He believes the only way to do so is to present it void of perspectives that promote hate-filled conversations of racism, which he believes is destructive to society.
There are people whom he represents who demonstrate the need for better race relations in the town.
In 2021, a Black teenager from the town similarly received a racialized message on the doorstep of her house. The then-15-year-old Lily Gallentine protested various racist symbols (like Blackface caricatures, swastikas, and “Coon Chicken Inn” posters) being sold in local antique shops by putting up a Black Lives Matter sign in her yard. The next day, she was met with a surprise.
“A day later, we were just sitting at the dinner table, and the doorbell rang,” she said before revealing someone had left a watermelon on her porch with BLM carved in it.
The councilman notes that these random race-centered issues are not isolated issues. During a recent council meeting, one constituent brought up slavery despite it not being a topic listed on the agenda, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.
“The people in this part of the country are just gonna have to catch up,” Evelyn said. “It’s just the knuckleheads that can’t get on track. And they’re causing harm to everyone and making us look bad.”
Redmond is a town of less than 40,000 people. Of those residents, more than 89 percent of them are white, and less than 1 percent identify as Black or African American, U.S. Census data shows.
Fitch said he never saw anything like that in his career as mayor and noted the author’s sloppy handwriting. He said the person who created the sign didn’t “write very well and didn’t have the courage to sign it.”
The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Imagery in Michigan states “coon” has been used as a way to insult African-Americans since slavery and is one of “the most blatantly degrading of all Black stereotypes.”
“As with Sambo, the coon was portrayed as a lazy, easily frightened, chronically idle, inarticulate buffoon. The coon differed from the Sambo in subtle but important ways. Sambo was depicted as a perpetual child, not capable of living as an independent adult. The coon acted childish, but he was an adult; albeit a good-for-little adult,” the museum writes.
Notably, the word is also used among African-Americans to describe a Black person who does not like his own race or is a “sellout.”
Redmond Police Chief Devin Lewis released a statement saying, “no tolerance for hate speech of any kind, against any person or group.”
“We will work swiftly to resolve this case and seek to hold those who did this to our community responsible,” he continued.
Police are requesting that members of the public step forward if they have information about the incident.
The mayor said, “We all know that our community is better than this, and we’ll move forward in that vein.”