State police step up efforts after three hate speech incidents in one week

The latest incident happened just this weekend in Hartford, when police said someone painted a swastika on a Black Lives Matter mural just steps from the state Capitol.

John Craven

Jun 12, 2023, 9:30 PM

Updated 310 days ago

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In just one week, Connecticut has seen three major hate speech incidents. Now, a new state police Hate Crimes Task Force is increasing its monitoring.
The latest incident happened just this weekend in Hartford, when police said someone painted a swastika on a Black Lives Matter mural just steps from the state Capitol. It comes just days after other incidents in Thompson and in Greenwich.
Volunteers Latoya Delaire spent Sunday painting over the racist symbols.
“I was devastated because it was only my letter,” she said.
In Greenwich, signs targeting the gay and lesbian community were left outside Town Hall last week. On the same day in Thompson, a tiny town in northeastern Connecticut, more than 100 people received racist, threatening letters – including former first selectman Larry Groh.
“That letter was trying to intimidate politicians, intimidate voters,” he said.
Connecticut State Police now have a person of interest in one of those cases, detectives said Monday. They believe the suspect acted alone, but hate speech reports are growing.
“Over the last four years, we have experienced a 265% increase in hate incidents that have been reported to us,” said Stacey Sobel, with the Connecticut Anti-Defamation League.
Sobel said most cases in Connecticut can be traced to just three white nationalist groups. But those groups are getting less organized, which makes them harder to track them down.
To fight back, State Police recently formed a new Hate Crimes Division.
“Monitoring social media platforms, distributing information out to law enforcement before incidents occur,” said state police Lt. Kate Cummings. “Hate crimes can be challenging. And what we can often find is that some of these bias incidents might not rise to a criminal level, but what is important to know that there is a civil aspect to this.”
Under a 2022 law, local authorities have 14 days to report potential crimes to state police – including threats, intimidation based on bigotry and property destruction. The division also coordinates with the FBI and New York State Police.
“We stand in solidarity to denounce the behavior,” said state Police Commissioner James Rovella.
Yoyo Collado, of Waterbury, who helped re-paint the BLM mural, said it’s a joint effort to prevent a pain that goes beyond words.
“It might just be this small symbol on this one letter on this whole mural, but it's an entire community that's impacted,” she said.


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