North Smithfield, RI – Members of the North Smithfield Democratic Town Committee are speaking out to condemn intolerance following the discovery of bigoted vandalism, including swastikas, on property in a public park in town.
Vandals reportedly defaced a bench by the baseball field and a table by the volleyball court at Pacheco Park on or around Tuesday, April 11, with drawings of Nazi swastikas, and words described as anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic slurs.
“As a community, we must face an underlying sense of intolerance and disrespect – to whatever, and hopefully small degree – that exists in North Smithfield,” said Meghan Mello, chairperson of the committee. “With ever-widening schisms dividing us as citizens, these acts of vandalism can be seen also as acts of terror against those who are targeted by hateful messaging.”
Mello noted the vandalism follows the appearance of signs from the Proud Boys, a national organization described as a hate group, on roadsides in North Smithfield a few months ago. She also referenced recent controversies over inclusion of certain books in school curriculum.
“Instead of finding ways to create understanding and bonds amongst us, there are those who wish to ignore history, limit the gaining of knowledge and ban books that otherwise might allow us to embrace all members of our community,” Mello said. “If understanding, acceptance and justice is not taught, it appears hate will fill the vacuum.”
Local police have reportedly been notified of the vandalism, which is expected to be removed by staff from the Department of Public Works.
Mello noted that all members of the NSDTC are condemning the acts of vandalism and hate, and are calling on elected and public officials to do the same.
“Let us show our children and the world that we are better than this,” she said.