Deep River seeks communication and healing after viral racial incidents

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Protesters gathered outside Deep River Town Hall on July 1 to express their opposition to recent racist incidents in the town. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

Deep River officials are looking for ways to educate, communicate and heal with the help of community leaders and the Anti-Defamation League following several racist incidents in June.

“Our city does not condone violence in any way and encourages dialogue as a means of reaching a peaceful resolution,” first coach Angus McDonald wrote in a statement sent to residents. “To that end, the city, together with the Anti-Defamation League and community leaders, is working to plan a community forum and subsequent programs focused on education, communication and healing.”

McDonald’s statement came shortly after video of a June 27 incident involving an 11-year-old boy and a 48-year-old man went viral on TV and internet media. The video appears to show a confrontation between the man, identified by police as Jameson Chapman, 48, of Winter Avenue, Deep River, and the boy. In the video, Chapman appears to direct a swearing tirade at the boy, telling him to “get the f*** out of town.”

According to McDonald, the incident began when two boys were riding bicycles and encountered two adults, including Chapman, walking along Main Street. After words are exchanged between Chapman and one of the boys, Chapman in the video appears as if pushing the 11-year-old off his bike. The confrontation started near Family Laundromat, moving up Main Street towards Cumberland Farms, then around River Street and High Street, according to McDonald.

Police arrested Chapman and charged him with second-degree breach of the peace, risk of harm to a child and third-degree assault. He was transported to Hartford Correctional Center where he was released on bail. He was due to appear in Middlesex Superior Court on July 11 (after press time).

Several videos taken by others in town who witnessed the scene have been submitted to Connecticut State Police F Troop who are reviewing them as part of an ongoing investigation into the event.

The incident came a month after the city’s sign on Route 154 was vandalized on June 1, with a hate message employing racial slurs directed at blacks and Latinx people. The investigation into the defacement of the sign is currently ongoing, according to McDonald. He noted that although the incidents of vandalism and assault have racial aspects, they otherwise appear to be completely unrelated to each other.

“It is essential that we remember and inform others that the actions of the few people involved in two distinct and separate incidents do not represent the thinking of the vast majority of people in Deep River,” McDonald said.

In separate incidents, nearly two dozen concerned citizens took to the lawn outside City Hall on July 1 to express their anger over what they called a rise in “racist hatred.” Organizers of the rally, promoted on Facebook under the title ‘Enough – Stand Up Against Racism’, wrote, ‘Racist hate is on the rise in Deep River…if you’re not mad, this event is not not for you”.

In response to both the hate speech posted on the city’s sign and the assault later in the month, the city is seeking to work with community leaders and the Anti-Defamation League to schedule a city forum and programs educational sessions open to the community on the discussion of the issue of race, and will also focus on communication and healing following these incidents.

“The reality is, I know for myself, I’m always trying to learn and do better, and I know the community can learn and do better,” McDonald said. “It’s a good opportunity to try to do that.”

McDonald said he envisions the first forum the city hopes to host will be a community dialogue with city leaders, where residents will talk openly about each other about issues surrounding the events of the past month and how to respond effectively as a community. . The forum could create a blueprint for the best way for the city to move forward, which could lead to programs such as small group workshops. McDonald’s also sees discussions going beyond small groups as well, particularly in the possibility of having an annual conversation on race and equity, keeping in mind public support for whether a conversation should be organized by the city.

“We can all do better, and it’s an effort to try to do better,” McDonald said.

Nearly two dozen concerned citizens took to the lawn in front of City Hall on July 1 to express their anger at what they called a rise in “racist hatred”. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

Desiree Dominique, center, stands with protesters. Dominique is the mother of an 11-year-old boy who was assaulted on June 27. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/ The Courier

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