PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Authorities are investigating after multiple buildings in downtown Portsmouth were spray painted with hate symbols overnight.
Portsmouth New Hampshire Police say around 2:30 a.m., an unknown suspect graffitied 10 different businesses and places of worship with red spray paint. The graffiti appeared to intentionally target holy places and political messages with hate symbols and swastikas, according to officials.
The suspect can be seen in surveillance photos wearing a red sweatshirt with the word “Maine” written on the front of it.
The crimes occurred in the downtown area between Deer Street, Middle Street, and Court Street, along with a few instances on Marcy Street.
Joanna Kelley, assistant mayor of Portsmouth, owns Cup of Joe Café, one of at least ten businesses tagged with graffiti overnight.
“For me the first thing that came to mind was I want to make sure my staff felt safe, and so it was really heartbreaking to know that a space that was created to be welcoming to the community was targeted this way,” said Kelley.
She believes this was a hate crime.
“All of the ones that I’ve noticed had pride flags out, you know ‘love is love’, ‘hate doesn’t belong here’ and they were targeted to me, very specifically,” said Kelley.
Kelley says her cafe is one of the only black-owned businesses in town, and she says many of the other businesses tagged had pride flags, supporting the LGBTQ community, so she hopes the city will take a strong stance against this hate.
“Tonight is our Queer Night, the third Tuesday of every month is our Queer Night, so we wondered do we cancel it?” said Kelley. “And I reached out to people in the community and they said no like you’ve created a safe space for us and we want to support that and you in this time.”
“Silence in the face of these crimes means siding with the perpetrator, and these crimes do not represent the beliefs of our city,” Portsmouth Mayor Deaglan McEachern said in a statement. “I speak out in the strongest possible terms against these hateful & disgusting acts. Our community takes pride in declaring ourselves a Racial Justice Municipality but recently we have been a target for those that would seek to destroy the ideals we strive to live up to. I want to state clearly that this has only strengthened our resolve to be the city of the Open door.”
Anyone with information or video surveillance cameras in those areas are asked to contact Detective Sergeant McCarthy at 603-616-7656.
“This type of hateful and threatening criminal activity, motivated by racial or religious intolerance, particularly at places of worship, has no place in New Hampshire and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General John M. Formella.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
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