Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Meet the Press
Roadway Swastika A Sign Of Intolerance In Harwich
Cape Cod Chronicle by William F. Galvin
HARWICH — A red swastika sprayed on a yellow sign that warns drivers to be cautious approaching the bike trail crossing along Route 39 is signaling concern for growing intolerance and hatred in this community.
The swastika appeared over the weekend and was removed on Monday morning. But the emotional stain of the act of hatred and intolerance remained on Monday night when residents came before selectmen seeking a community commitment to teach tolerance and acceptance.
“This disturbs me deeply and concerns me as well,” East Harwich resident Susan Leven told selectmen. “One can chalk it up to an act of ignorance and stupidity on the part of some kids. But somehow that doesn’t make me any less concerned about it.
“I wonder what this says about the supposedly quiet place we live in: I wonder if it is time to revisit the subject of tolerance as a community value? I wonder if this was the work of adults?
“This has made me think about many things--- mostly about the ability of something so ugly and hateful to find its way into a community that I thought would never be defaced by something so awful.”
Several people spoke before selectmen Monday night citing the need to teach tolerance in the community. They urged additional funding for guidance in the schools and more tolerance forums like the community-wide gatherings that were held in 2002.
“It’s all about the signs of the time,” John Bangert said. “Racism and hatred are alive on the Cape .”
Bangert spoke of an incident in the town of Sandwich on Sept.10 where a five-foot cross was burned on school grounds where children from New Orleans displaced by Hurricane Katrina were in attendance.
“Hatred is not new and when it rears its ugly head we have to stand against it,” Bangert said.
Bangert, a resident of Harwich for 35 years, has created a web site --- No Place for Hatred in Harwich --- and writes a blog speaking to the issues of hatred, intolerance and prejudice.
In response to the incident last weekend, Bangert stated in his blog: “Our Harwich community should be outraged every time an incident of hate is expressed, and our response should be heightened, as we raise our collective voices to say not in my name, not in my town, and by re-examining our conscience whenever our community is under attack. This self-hatred leads to community hatred and becomes very harmful.”
“I find this absolutely disgusting,” Police Chief William Mason said.
He told selectmen hatred is out there and it is evident in two 11-year-old girls who are singing with a neo-Nazi group and doing so with parental support for their activity. Mason said there was a television program about these girls last weekend.
The police chief also said there is a motorcycle club that uses the swastika as its emblem. Mason cautioned there are people in town who advocate these types of activities, but who also know their civil rights. It is a fine line before you cross into a hate crime, Mason said.
The chief promised his department would take strong action against the perpetrator of this hate crime. He said they will examine the defacing of the sign to see if it is similar to other known acts in town and the schools resources officers will keep an ear to the ground in hopes of picking up information about who is responsible.
“I believe in the heart of the people of Harwich this is an unacceptable act,” Selectman Donald Howell said. “Often today’s bully is tomorrow’s miscreant and it leads to mal-adjusted behavior. There has to be some way of coming together to address this.”
Leven cited the tolerance forums of a couple of years ago as a good place to start. Bangert agreed, he said it has to be a coalition, a whole community that stands together. Bangert said several businesses in town will be selling “Stop Racism & Hate” signs. He also said people should take a pledge, a simple affirmation to stand up against hate, intolerance and prejudice.
Bangert suggested the outward signs of hatred should not be sanitized, instead allowing people to see it, otherwise they will not believe it. But Mason disagreed with that concept, recommending the immediate removal.
“It’s a blight on the community to leave it up for one more second,” Mason said.
“The board of selectmen has to make a statement with this and go forward,” Howell said, “before events get larger and a group finds it acceptable.”
There was discussion of an Anti-Defamation League program that could be used in the churches and schools. Bangert said discussions have begun with church leaders and Rev. Terry Newberry was planning a meeting with clergy from area churches in the near future.
School Committee member Polly Hemstock said she has requested this issue be placed on the next agenda. Speaking as a private citizen, Hemstock said, she was appalled this happened in this community. She also cited the need to activate forums on tolerance held a few years ago and the teaching of tolerance in the schools.
Mary Cronin said elementary school counselors could provide early detection of students who are angry or neglected and who might grow up to do something like this. She also said in Orleans they are providing peer mediation programs to students and addressing bullying as part of that program. She said that is a resource the town cut back on and this is an issue that can be dealt with in the school system.
“All politics is local,” Bangert said, citing Dec. 10 as International Human Rights Day and suggesting the community come together at the community center to share in different cultures.
Selectman Peter Piekarski recommended this issue be placed on the board’s agenda and additional documentation provided for review beforehand. Selectmen agreed this was a disgusting act and that steps should be taken in town to prevent further incidents of hatred and intolerance.
The police chief said this is the first incident in town in about a year. Mason said last year a flyer was found along the bike trail identifying a white supremacy rally that was scheduled for West Harwich , but that never materialized.
“The best we can tell is it was a random act, a tasteless, degrading random act,” Mason said. “It’s not an organized hate group developing in Harwich.”
The police chief said his department does not have any leads. He called it a crime of opportunity and said he encourages anyone with information or leads to contact his department.
Dec. 1, 2005
Bike path sign is defaced
Harwich Oracle Wednesday, November 30, 2005
By Douglas Karlson firstname.lastname@example.org
Emotions ran high in town hall Monday night as residents and town officials talked about a swastika spray-painted on a Route 39 bike path sign.
Concerned residents don’t want the swastika to go unanswered, Harwich resident John Bangert told the board of selectmen. "Racism and hatred is alive on Cape Cod," Bangert said, citing a recent cross burning in Sandwich. He asked selectmen to take the lead in making a community statement in response to the swastika and said that he has recently launched a "No Place for Hate - Harwich" coalition.
The message should be that "we will not tolerate this symbol of hate in our town," added Harwich resident Sue Leven, who also is the town planner.
An emotional Leven told selectmen, "This disturbs me deeply and concerns me as well. One can chalk it up to an act of ignorance and stupidity on the part of some kids, but somehow that doesn’t make me any less concerned about it."
She called the symbol a threat to the minority groups who were exterminated by the Nazis. Bangert compared the recent rash of hate crimes to Kristallnacht, when Jewish businesses, homes and synagogues were ransacked and desecrated across Germany in 1938.
Saying he found the defamation "absolutely disgusting," Police Chief William Mason said the department was "squeezing sources" to find out who did it. In such cases, he said police usually look for similarities with other known vandals and reach out to young people for information through the school resource officers (see police blotter, Page 10).Selectman Don Howell said the graffiti "isn’t indicative of the community I know, and there’s only one way to show that, by banding together to make a statement."
Some ideas for confronting hate are in the works. Following the cross burning in Sandwich Sept. 5, Bangert said, he contacted chairman of the Harwich Board of Selectmen Ed McManus about taking action as a community. Bangert said the coalition, which is distributing "stop hate" signs at several locations around town, has a website at www.noplaceforhateharwich.blogspot.com.
E-mailed NPFHH for more information or to take the No Place for Hate Pledge here cut and paste it and have as many folks sign them and have them ready for our proclamination day!
November 30, 2005
Harwich reacts to Nazi symbol
By JASON KOLNOS
HARWICH - Town Planner Susan Leven was deeply disturbed when she spotted a red swastika spray-painted on a sign near the bike path in Harwich Center Sunday.
''This has made me think about many things - mostly about the ability of something so ugly and hateful to find its way into a community that I thought would never be defaced by something so awful,'' Leven, speaking as a resident, told the selectmen Monday night.
Harwich police are investigating the incident. Police Chief William Mason said the culprit will be punished if caught.
Meanwhile, a new group lead by John Bangert - No Place for Hate - Harwich - is galvanizing the public to take a stand against racism and hate.
''Our community should be outraged every time an incident of hate is expressed and our response should be heightened,'' said Bangert, a longtime advocate for equality. ''We need to take a real stand on not erasing anyone's freedom.''
Bangert formed the No Place for Hate coalition last month. The group seeks to promote community awareness toward the goals of tolerance, acceptance and respect.
A cross-burning in Sandwich on Sept. 5 prompted Bangert to create the local group, sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.
''The main issue is what is going to be our response to this?'' he said yesterday. ''It is our collective responsibility to say, 'What can we do about it?'''
At area businesses, including Sativa and Wild Oats Market in Harwich Port, Bangert and his group have disseminated pledge forms. Residents are being asked to sign the pledges, promising to refrain from hurtful speech or actions. The group has also printed red cardboard signs that read ''Stop Racism and Hate.''
The group's suggested school curriculum urges everything from more training for school counselors to establishing procedures for reporting hate-motivated crimes and setting school policies that indicate such behavior is not tolerated.
''I see this as a teachable moment, to refocus everyone's attention that this is happening here even though we might not have thought so,'' said Polly Hemstock, a member of the Harwich School Committee.
The school board intends to invite the coalition to a meeting, possibly as soon as Dec. 7.
Hemstock said the schools have a strong policy toward anti-discrimination, and the elementary school has recently set up a task force to take a look at bullying.
''This seems like a good time to look at our policies and procedures to make sure we are making a strong enough statement,'' she said.
Jason Kolnos can be reached at email@example.com.