Claremont — Activists and community members in Claremont are calling on police to provide more information after allegations that a young boy was injured late last month in a racially motivated incident.
The family of an 8-year-old biracial boy said he was taunted with racial epithets by a group of young teenagers and then intentionally pushed off a picnic table with a rope around his neck in the backyard of a home near Barnes Park.
Ten days after the incident, aside from confirming an ongoing investigation, police have refused to release any details about the case, citing the confidentiality that protects juvenile proceedings.
But Twin State activists involved with racial justice issues said that by not offering any information about the case, officials could be stifling an important community conversation about racism.
“Folks don’t just deserve to be informed about what’s going on; it is imperative that we disseminate this information,” said Mark Hughes, the co-founder and executive director for Justice for All, a Vermont-based group for racial justice. “Because to not do this feeds into the problem.”
Hughes noted that while the incident occurred on Aug. 28, it took more than a week for it to become public, and that was only because of a widely shared Facebook post by the boy’s mother.
“I am upset and saddened and angered about how the police and city officials have chosen to play this,” said Kendra Colburn, of Strafford, a member of the Upper Valley chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice. “(They) all seem like they do not want media attention on this story, and I am concerned about that. I am really concerned that we can’t change what we don’t know about or refuse to look at.”
As he has done repeatedly, Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase on Thursday declined to comment on the case, citing confidentiality laws that protect juveniles.
Chase has confirmed that there was an incident involving juveniles on Aug. 28 that remains under investigation.
In an interview on Thursday, he acknowledged that he has received several inquiries from people both in and out of Claremont, and though he is constrained on what he can say, he said he has reassured each person that the police department is committed to getting to the bottom of all complaints it receives.
For good reasons, Chase said, criminal investigations involving juveniles are kept confidential.
“Mistakes they make as a young child should not have to follow them for the rest of their life,” Chase said.
We all know what the sentiment and reaction would be if the colors of the children were reversed. Angela Helm of the Root commented on this response as posted on the Daily Kos:
*Notice how he called these predators “young children,” infantilizing the white teens. Conversely, teens like Trayvon Martin are made out to be hulking, menacing adults. Chief Chase seems to be centering the perpetrators’ feelings and futures, all but forgetting about the trauma of a little boy who had his so-called friends hang him from a tree to the point where he had to be medevaced to a hospital.