2008-09-05 Holland Sentinel "More than 2,600 sign petition"


More than 2,600 sign petition
By MEGAN SCHMIDT
The Holland Sentinel

Holland, MI —

More than 2,600 people will tell the community how they feel about a racial slur painted on the driveway of a Park Township family last month.

A newspaper ad denouncing the vandalism will run in The Sentinel on Sunday.

What won’t run in the newspaper will be personal messages to the family, written by many of the pledge’s signers.

“We’re compiling all these notes and we’re going to give them to the Robinsons,” said Gail Harrison, executive director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, one of the organizations that organized the pledge.

“I think it really says a wonderful thing about smaller, hometown communities. People do want a chance to respond,” she said.

The ad is a response to the slur discovered Monday morning, Aug. 18, at the Robinson residence on North Bristol Street in Park Township.

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office said at least a half dozen calls from other homeowners in the area reported broken windows and graffiti on their property the same day. Vandalism also was reported to an overlook at Winstrom Park on 160th Avenue and Perry Street.

The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance and other organizations launched the pledge in support of the Robinsons later that week. The group collected signatures to include on the pledge for about two weeks, said Harrison.

The pledge states: “We want the family to know that anyone who did this does not reflect us or what we want our community to be, and we support efforts to bring the person or persons to justice.”

The ad was intended to fill a page, but the list of names grew so large so quickly that it spilled onto a second, Harrison said.

One of the names on the pledge that will run Sunday will be Sgt. Drew Torres of the Holland Police Department.

“As a police officer I’ve seen a lot of graffiti in my time, but this is one of the rare, rare occasions that I’ve seen something like that,” Torres said of the slur.

As the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office continues to search for the suspects, several rewards have been offered for information on the incidents.

Two individuals have offered a $500 reward and a $100 reward for anyone who supplies information that leads to the apprehension of the suspects who painted the Robinsons’ driveway, said Park Township Supervisor Stu Visser.

Visser said the two individuals who are offering the reward money are just “concerned citizens” not necessarily friends of the Robinsons.

The township also is offering a $150 reward for anyone with information about the Winstrom Park vandalism.

So far, no one has come forward with any information, Visser said.

Torres said he hopes seeing the ad in the newspaper will make the suspect feel enough guilt to come forward in his or her own way.

“Hopefully they’ll do some soul searching and at least write an anonymous letter of apology to the family,” he said.
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