Interracial Couple Decides To Leave Anti-Black Slur On Their Vandalized Home, Despite City's $100/Day Fine, Until Cops Bag Suspect; Civil Rights Group Says Offensive Message Could Have Constitutional Protection
- When Lexene Charles got into his car here on the Saturday before Martin Luther King’s Birthday, he was stunned by what he saw outside his home. He called for his longtime partner, Heather Lindsay, to come outside.
Someone had spray-painted an anti-black slur across it, Mr. Charles, who is black, said. But instead of scrubbing it off, he and Ms. Lindsay, who is white, decided to leave it up to make a very public point about intolerance.
Six weeks later, the graffiti, which faces High Clear Drive, remains. Residents have started to complain, and officials in Stamford, a diverse coastal city about 30 miles northeast of New York City, recently directed the couple to remove it. Leaving it up only brings satisfaction to the vandal, the city said.
On Feb. 7, after the slur had been up three weeks, the city issued the couple a citation for blight and a warning: Remove it, or face a $100-a-day fine. The police chief visited the home and offered to clean the garage door. The mayor said he would help. The couple refused their offers and ignored the citation.
It is not the first showdown between Stamford and the couple over the property, which was first cited for blight in 2012 for debris. The city sued Ms. Lindsay the following year for disregarding that citation, and the fees, which continue to accumulate, exceed $130,000. The city is now trying to acquire the property in a foreclosure lawsuit scheduled to go to trial on March 7.
The couple said the graffiti was the latest in a string of racially motivated insults directed at them, especially Mr. Charles, a Haitian immigrant. Ms. Lindsay said that since the couple had moved into the house in 1999, several people in the area had repeatedly yelled racial obscenities at him and told them they hurt property values.
“I don’t sleep good,” Mr. Charles, 57, a school bus driver in Greenwich, Conn., said in an interview , adding that he now slept near the front door with a hammer. “I’m always looking out the window. I’ve never done that before.”
The couple, along with supporters and members of the local and state N.A.A.C.P., held a news conference [recently] in their driveway, the slur behind them, and demanded that the police solve the crime. The Stamford Police Department said it had been investigating the episode but had been hindered by a lack of witnesses and evidence. Officers have interviewed neighbors and searched the area. The police said that security cameras revealed nothing and that they had no leads.
“We are doing everything we can because obviously it’s very offensive,” said Ted Jankowski, the director of public safety, who oversees the Police Department. “We offered to remedy the situation, to take care of removing the graffiti.”
Andre Cayo, a lawyer representing Ms. Lindsay, 59, a former respiratory therapist now on disability, said he had advised her to keep the racial slur on the garage door as a way to keep pressure on the Police Department. He said that news media attention to the case had helped him and Ms. Lindsay arrange a meeting with Stamford detectives . There, Ms. Lindsay said, she provided the police with names of several people she suspected might have written the slur. Mr. Jankowski said officers had then talked with those people, who had also been interviewed last month, but gained no new leads.
The vandalism came at a time when federal authorities have recorded an uptick in hate crimes across the country. [... R]ecently, President Trump denounced a wave of anti-Semitism, including threats made against dozens of Jewish community centers.
See also, ACLU: Racial slur on Stamford couple’s home could have constitutional protection.
For a story update, see Stamford officials: Woman won't be fined for slur on home (Stamford officials decided Monday that a local woman will no longer be facing fines after refusing to remove a racial slur painted on her home).