2008-08-21 WOOD-TV "Is Park Township Graffiti a Hate Crime?"


Is Park Township graffiti a hate crime?
By JOE LAFURGEY
WOOD-TV 8

PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) --

The observation area at Windsom Park is covered with graffiti. Some of the words are unfit to print.

Deputies think the same group may be responsible for similar damage throughout Park Township.

The graffiti at the park is a nuisance, but what they did to a family just a few blocks away is troubling.

While much of the damage has been cleaned or covered up, you can still see some of the evidence. But the paint on a driveway up the street covers up graffiti far more damaging than what's appeared elsewhere.

The family that lives in the home is Jamaican. The paint covers the N word.

Lydsie Schaapman said she has some ideas who may have done the damage. "It could be some kids from my school. I don't know why they're doing this."

The Jamaican family declined to comment.

So far, investigators stopped short of calling what happened at their home a hate crime. The law says there has to be specific intent for an incident to fall under the ten year felony statute. And so far, much of the evidence points to a teenage prank.

Not everyone agrees.

"This was not a random act. It was a targeted act of racial violence," said Gail Harrison, director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance. "If everyone would report how often they see that word in different places around the community, I think that you would find it's not an anomaly."

The incident has prompted a call for the community to speak out.

Hundreds of people have already responded to an online petition that will become a full page newspaper ad letting anyone who reads it know the community won't stand for hate.

The group will also hold a park party to show the Jamaican family how much the community cares.

As for the contention this may not meet the definition of a hate crime, Harrison begs to differ.

"When a child says, the oldest daughter says, "Are they going to kill us, mom?' When the family is told by the police you may not want your kids to go out at night right now. That's intimidation."

No arrests have been made.
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