Wilton police investigating hate crime after couple receives racist note

  • A photograph of the racist note. The Ledger-Transcript digitally blurred out the racial slur. Courtesy photo—

  • Ann Putnam of Wilton at a protest in Peterborough in 2019. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/16/2021 2:14:24 PM

Wilton police are investigating a hate crime after a resident reported her Black Lives Matter sign was stolen and replaced with a racist note.

Ann Putnam of Wilton said Thursday was the second time one of her Black Lives Matter signs was stolen, but this time, the thief also left a hand-written note held down by a piece of pavement on her walkway. Scrawled in black marker on white notebook paper the note reads “N*****R LOVER” in all capitals.

“My first reaction was laughter, because it was just so absurd. I thought, ‘What year is it?’ I couldn’t believe this was happening, now, in my community,” Putnam said.

Police Chief Eric Olesen confirmed that police responded to the incident on Thursday at 2:43 p.m. and are actively investigating the incident. Olesen said currently, police do not have any suspects, but are still in the midst of the investigation.

“It is being treated as a hate crime,” Olesen confirmed.

Putnam said the first Black Lives Matter sign she had put up had also been stolen, months ago, on Nov. 13. She was undeterred and replaced the sign with a new one of a different design but with the same slogan, which was taken at some point Wednesday or Thursday. The sign was placed well back on her lawn, and the note left on the walkway on her property, Putnam said, so someone would have had to trespass on her property to leave the note or take the sign.

“There’s part of my brain that doesn’t want to believe that rational adults would want to do something like that, so there’s part of me that wants to think it’s just some hooligan, just some kid. But I don’t really know,” Putnam said.

Putnam and her husband Ben Putnam have been involved in the Black Lives Matter movement for months. Putnam and her daughter attended a protest in Manchester in the spring of 2020, to protest the death of George Floyd. Since, Putnam has joined multiple community groups aimed at starting conversations about racial justice, including the Monadnock Chapter of Standing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ, the Hancock Community Conversations on Race, and New Hampshire Rights and Democracy or RAD.

She’s also been regularly attending Black Lives Matter protests in Peterborough on Saturdays. She said that experience hasn’t left her completely unprepared for the note she found Thursday.

“We inevitably get people who think that we are being divisive, when in reality, we are trying to achieve equality,” Putnam said. She said she has been told by passing motorists that she is trying to incite a civil war, and that there have been instances of counter-protestors who have tried to engage with her group.

When her husband, Ben Putnam, posted to a local community Facebook group suggesting that the Wilton-Lyndeborough High School might change the Warriors’ logo, which features a profile of a Native American wearing a headdress, there was a large amount of backlash among members of the group.

She said her involvement with activism has opened her eyes to the reality of the persistent problem of racial injustice.

“It’s been a wakeup call for me, in the past several years, but especially this past summer,” Putnam said. “When I was growing up, I didn’t see any of this. I thought the Civil Rights movement was a thing that happened in the past, and we’ve moved beyond it. I now understand that things weren’t all rosy when I was a kid. I just didn’t understand what a problem racism is in our country.”

Putnam said she wants people to know about this incident, because it’s a clear instance that there is still a long way to go.

“I don’t mind being outspoken about this insane situation. It’s about human and civic rights, and we can’t say nothing,” Putnam said. “I just told my husband I feel like I’m in a time warp. We’re being yanked back and progress is being stripped away, and we’re in decades prior dealing with issues I thought I had been resolved. But I’m just realizing that they weren’t resolved, I just didn’t know about them.”

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.




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