Authorities are investigating a hate crime in New Castle after a Black Lives Matter sign at the Quaker Friends Meeting House on Quaker Road was set on fire following two previous recent incidents where the banner was vandalized.
The New Castle Police Department received word Thursday at 1:48 a.m. that the sign at the Chappaqua Friends Meeting House was on fire, and the Chappaqua Fire Department subsequently extinguished the fire.
“They determined that the fire was incendiary – not caused by accident or live wires from the storm but set intentionally,” the Town of New Castle stated on Facebook.
On Thursday morning at 8, Supervisor Ivy Pool and Town Administrator Jill Shapiro met with New Castle Police Chief James Carroll and Lieutenant Estuardo Pazmiño “to review the facts and mobilize action immediately.”
“We are investigating this as a hate crime,” the supervisor stated. “We have reached out to the New York State Hate Crimes Task Force to request assistance in our investigation. NCPD is reviewing video footage recovered from nearby cameras. Make no mistake, to refute the belief that Black Lives Matter in any way, shape, or form, through words, actions, vandalism, or destruction is a hate crime. To the cowards doing this, I say this: However many times you deface and destroy, we will continue to replace, to build it back bigger, better, and more. We will double and triple down in support of our black community members, and all of our BIPOC community members. As a community, and as a town, we are resolved: Black Lives Matter.”
Pool, in a separate interview with The Examiner, said she was “furious about what has happened.
“I’m also resolute and undeterred,” she said. “I’m not afraid to take on the difficult challenges. In fact, I’m grateful for the opportunity to do so.”
The Black Lives Matter banner displayed outside the meeting house was also vandalized earlier this week, for what was then a second time. In June, members and attendees of the Chappaqua Friends Meeting religious society, located at 420 Quaker Road, decided to place the banner at the front of the house in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
Late last month, the first incident of vandalism was discovered, with the word “Black” painted over.
“The young meeting member who created the sign acted quickly and, with help, within a few hours, our meeting had removed, repainted and rehung the sign,” an open letter from members and attendees of the meeting house said on Tuesday. “Then, just this week, after we had repainted the sign, it was vandalized again. We have again repainted it and proudly displayed it once more.”
The open letter also notes the historical context of the incident.
“The vandalism on our property has particular significance, as our Meeting House has a proud and rich history and stands as a landmark on the African American Heritage Trail in Westchester because of the opposition to slavery expressed by Quakers as early as the 1750s, when the Meeting House was constructed,” the letter writers stated. “By challenging the morality of slavery, Friends served in part as a catalyst to the abolition of slavery in post-Revolutionary War New York. At the same time, we know the vestiges of slavery and oppression continue to the present. We strive to stand as allies for those who have faced deep oppression and discrimination.”
Marion Walsh of the Chappaqua Friends Meeting said she is profoundly saddened by the incident.
“We deplore this act and stand with resolve as allies of the Black Lives Matter Movement,” she said.
New Castle Police Officer Kraig Davenport said in a brief interview Tuesday that he took a report on the prior incident for detectives to investigate.
“They’re looking into it,” he said.
Authorities are asking anyone with information to contact the New Castle Police Department at (914) 238-4422 and/or submit an anonymous tip online at https://local.nixle.com/tip/new-castle-police-department/ or text 888-777 and start the message with TIPNC911.
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