Home stained by racist graffiti
Family that escaped Somalia targeted in scrawled message
As she pulled out of her Thompson Street driveway early Sunday morning to go to her job as a housekeeper, the woman quickly spotted it: a message in black permanent marker, scrawled on several lines of siding underneath her bedroom window.
She stopped the car and went back into the house to get her husband and children. The woman, who is originally from Somalia and can't read or write English, said her children read her the message: "We can not coexist with third world scum," it began.
"I was not surprised," the woman, who asked not to be identified, said yesterday evening, standing in her driveway. "I knew it was something bad that they wrote."
The incident marks the second time in a year that xenophobic graffiti has defaced homes of African families in the South End. In September, graffiti written in black marker appeared on the homes of three refugee families on Perley and Downing streets, with each message describing the families as "subhumans" who weren't wanted in the community.
The method and message of the latest graffiti - which called the home's occupants "primitive beasts" and blamed them for causing crime - has led the police to question whether the same person is responsible.
"It's a strong possibility," Concord police Lt. Timothy O'Malley said yesterday.
The police held a press conference last September after the graffiti was discovered, appearing with Attorney General Michael Delaney in front of one of the defaced homes to decry the hate-filled messages and seek help identifying who wrote them.
But while tips came in, none led the police to a person, O'Malley said. He said the investigation, which also involved the FBI, is still open.
At the home on Thompson Street, the police believe someone wrote the graffiti between 11 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday. They soon removed the siding with the racist message but yesterday circulated a picture to media outlets, hoping it would generate leads.
"We can not coexist with third world scum," the message read. "The primitive beasts like those in this house are to blame for the crimes we now suffer. Love your legals, deport the rest."
O'Malley said the family who lives in the Thompson Street home is here legally and has had no problems with the police. Whoever wrote the graffiti "had no motives we're aware of, other than just pure racism," he said.
"We have concerns about this because it clearly is targeting a family," O'Malley said. "It seems like it's thought out."
The police are seeking tips from anyone who spotted something unusual on Thompson Street - "no matter how insignificant it may have seemed at the time," O'Malley said - or who recognize the author's handwriting or message.
They are also devoting resources to the case, said Concord police Chief John Duval. He said the department called in detectives over the weekend and has spoken to the attorney general's office and federal officials to coordinate its next steps.
"Obviously this is very disturbing, and we don't take cases like this lightly at all," Duval said.
As the police pledged a strong response, others in the city spoke out against the graffiti.
"This is not Concord," said the city's mayor, Jim Bouley. "We don't accept this behavior. It is absolutely unacceptable."
Bouley pointed to the response in the wake of last year's graffiti incidents, when hundreds of community members organized and gathered at "Love Your Neighbor" rallies. A barbecue inspired by the fall events was recently held at Keach Park.
"That support has not wavered," Bouley said. "It's not like we have an incident and forgot about it. This is something I think people in Concord are very cognizant about."
At yesterday's National Night Out event in Rollins Park, Kim Murdoch was passing out yellow ribbons - the color of the Love Your Neighbor campaign - in a show of support for the graffiti victims.
"I think it's important to stand up and say we are not a community in Concord that finds this acceptable," said Murdoch, a volunteer who helped the Concord police with the event.
For the Somali family recently targeted by the graffiti, the incident has been an aberration in their New Hampshire experience. Yesterday evening, as she unloaded several gallons of milk from her car and prepared to make dinner during the family's observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the woman who lives in the Thompson Street home said people in Concord have been "all nice to me."
"I've never seen a bad person," she said.
The woman lives with her husband, who works as a carpenter, and their seven children. They have been in New Hampshire for eight years and on Thompson Street for one. Their landlord, Tom Fredenburg, said the family came to the U.S. as refugees and previously lived in public housing.
On Thompson Street, "they finally got into a place where they could be in a neighborhood," he said.
The woman said she has enjoyed living in a place where her children can play outside and she has friends nearby. She was saddened by the graffiti, and shaken by its presence just outside her bedroom. But she told her children not to worry.
"I know that some people's crazy, and that's okay," she said. "Everybody in life is not the same."
The police are asking anyone with information about the graffiti to call the department at 225-8600. Tips may also be shared anonymously with the Concord Regional Crimeline by calling 226-3100, by visiting concordregionalcrimeline.com, or by texting TIP234 and sending a message to CRIMES.
(Maddie Hanna can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)