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La date de parution est 2023-12-03 12:09:00.
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PORTSMOUTH — Racial justice leaders spoke out Sunday in support of Mamadou Dembele, a Black man who says he was the victim of a racist assault by a white attacker the night before Thanksgiving.
“Mr. Dembele’s assault is not so very unusual for a Black man who lives in New Hampshire,” said the Rev. Bob Thompson, president of the Seacoast NAACP. “Although not many of us have are targeted in such a brutal and outrageous manner, most Black men in New Hampshire carry ourselves as if Mr. Dembele’s assault was a possibility. We need to manage this anxiety every day, an exhausting, unnecessary reality.”
Dembele, a bank executive, was flanked during the protest at the African Burying Ground Memorial Park by Portsmouth Assistant Mayor Joanna Kelley and leaders from the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire, the Seacoast and Manchester NAACP chapters, Black Lives Matter New Hampshire and other groups. He did not give formal remarks at the protest but spoke with and hugged dozens of Seacoast supporters after the event.
Thompson told the crowd hostility persists in New Hampshire and racial animosity “seems to be as American as apple pie.
“We’re here today to inform and educate our fellow citizens about the unneeded anxiety suffered by many New Hampshire residents,” Thompson said. “We are also determined to continue to work for a country where men and women boys and girls are not judged by their skin color or other physical conditions. Instead, we work toward the day when we will be judged by our worth as determined through our service, our contributions to our communities, and because we share a common concern that America continues to grow into a land of freedom and justice for all its citizens.”
Alleged attack under investigation
Dembele, a New Hampshire resident and a vice president with Bangor Savings Bank, has said in a prepared statement he was assaulted the night of Wednesday, Nov. 22 by a person who used language that made it clear it was a racist attack. He said he did not know the attacker. Dembele’s attorney, Robin Melone, has said she has “no question” the alleged incident was a hate crime against her client. The New Hampshire attorney general’s office has said its Civil Rights Unit is working with police to investigate.
Melone and Dembele have not stated publicly the injuries sustained by Dembele in the alleged assault.
New Hampshire State Police have taken over the investigation from the Portsmouth Police Department. City police responded to the alleged incident on Fleet Street. They handed off the investigation to state police because a former Portsmouth police employee may have been involved, according to city Police Chief Mark Newport.
Previous story: Mamadou Dembele says he is victim of racist assault in Portsmouth
Manchester NAACP president James McKim on Sunday read aloud a statement shared by Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Sean Locke. The statement applauded New Hampshire’s diverse population and credited marginalized groups for making the Granite State stronger.
“The attorney general’s office is committed to working with our communities and our local law enforcement partners to ensure that when hate crimes occur, they are identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent possible,” Locke’s statement reads. “Hate will not have a home in the Granite State. Anyone who believes that they may have been a victim of hate motivated conduct is encouraged to contact the (attorney general’s office) Civil Rights Unit.”
Tanisha Johnson, a Black Lives Matter New Hampshire leader, called for authorities to conduct a swift investigation. She urged charges to be brought and for the attack to be prosecuted as a hate crime.
“We want our community to stand up in solidarity and not remain silent for the injustice of space for our Black and brown community,” she said. “We want a commitment from this community to ensure New Hampshire is a safe and belonging space for our Black and brown children. We should feel outraged that (Dembele) currently has to walk around with physical injuries that are confirmation that New Hampshire is not innocent, and that racism does live here. »
Portsmouth assistant mayor points out city has seen acts of hate in recent past
Kelley, the assistant mayor, recalled the antisemitic, racist vandalism on her downtown business, Cup of Joe Cafe and Bar, and a string of other storefronts in February as proof Portsmouth is not immune to hateful acts.
Kelley also blasted speculation by some in social media about the credibility of Dembele’s claims. She urged community members to rise up and speak out.
“Mamadou is a good friend of mine, and Portsmouth is a place that I love. But it also is a place that unfortunately, things like this are commonplace, » Kelley said. « Attacks like this on residents, on businesses, on assistant mayors and leaders (who are) people of color, people of different races of ethnic backgrounds and religions. It’s too commonplace and too often we are silent in it.
“And so it is our duty to stand out in rainy, cold days like today and to be loud and to say that we will not go quietly. We will not be victims,” she said. “Our community does not welcome this, but we need to be louder.”
The response to the alleged attack on Dembele followed recent community showings of support after incidents of hate in Portsmouth.
In December 2021, scores of people rallied to support the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth following a demonstration by a neo-Nazi group against the theater’s drag story hour. In February, days after a city teenager allegedly spray painted hateful symbols and messages on city businesses, Temple Israel and other buildings, Kelley and community leaders organized an event called Love Blooms Here, distributing flowers in support of those targeted by the vandalism.
Dottie Morris, Keene State College associate vice president for institutional equity and diversity, said Dembele will not fight this battle alone.
“In this show of support for Mamadou, we’re not only supporting him, but we’re supporting all, » Morris said. « We’re putting everyone on notice that when you hurt one of us, you’re going to have to deal with all of us.”
Student group in Portsmouth offers support
We Speak, a student social justice club at Portsmouth High School, expressed its “deepest concern” in reaction to the alleged assault in a prepared statement.
“There is no place for hate in our community and we condemn any kind of racism and physical attacks not only in Portsmouth but anywhere. Portsmouth is better than this and we should be a guiding light for towns around us to look up to, not a place where hate and injustice live,” the group’s statement reads. “Our children are watching, the students are watching, and we know what is right and wrong. We will not stand for this kind of behavior in our city and we strive for excellence in our compassion and kindness towards one another. We will need to wait and see how the State’s investigation turns out. But we hope and expect that justice will prevail and that everyone – no matter their race, gender identity, religion, background or ability – can feel safe living and working in our community without fear of verbal or physical violence against them.”
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Leaders speak out in Portsmouth after alleged racist attack
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