ESSEX, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut’s commissioner of public safety didn’t mince words while talking about the rise in hate related incidents.
“Today, we’re gonna discuss a really disgusting trend,” Commissioner James Rovella said.
A Pride Month book display at the Essex Library was dismantled this weekend, and a swastika was painted on a Black Lives Matter mural in Hartford. There were also hate-filled letters left in driveways last week in Thompson.
“Freedom can be abused, as we saw in my town last week,” said Thompson First Selectman Amy St. Onge. “It truly broke my heart.”
Others have also spoken out against the hate.
“The distribution of a hate-filled letter especially stings deeply for my wife Erica and I, as it targeted three generations of our family members,” said Larry Groh, Thompson’s former first selectman.
Those letters, as well as flyers left in Hamden recently, may have meant to intimidate, but instead they have energized residents to fight back.
“Vote and vote for leaders that are going to stand up against hate,” said Stacy Sobel, the Connecticut regional director at the Anti-Defamation League.
The Anti-Defamation League said that there has been a 265% in hate crimes within the late four years.
Another troubling trend is the age of the people committing hate crimes.
“I’m seeing a trend of juveniles being radicalized at an earlier age,” Rovella said.
State police are now armed with more tools in this fight.
A new law last year created a new hate crime charge of intimidation based on bigotry or bias, and the formation of the Connecticut State Police Hate Crime Task Force.
“This hate crimes unit does not work alone,” Connecticut State Police Lt. Kate Cummings said. “Its members cooperate with local, state and federal law enforcement.”
The books taken from the Essex display were found in the library, and that display was restored. The library did send a message out on its website and social media saying how disappointed and troubled it was by what had happened.
The library wants people to know it is committed to providing families with what they choose to read, while artists in Hartford picked up paint brushes to restore the mural.
For now, people are on edge.
“Keep looking over your shoulders,” Rovella said.