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Civil rights leaders say to stop acts of hate, people must speak out against them

A nationwide rise in racist and anti-Semitic incidents can also be seen in Connecticut. Southbury is the latest community to see messages of white supremacy appear

SOUTHBURY, Conn. — Civil rights leaders say there is a concerning increase of incidents involving racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.

"I think what we're seeing is a rise in hate speech overall. In Connecticut and across this country," said Farhan Memon, chairman of the CT chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

According to the most recent FBI data, hate crimes rose to the highest level in over a decade in 2020 and the Anti-Defamation League reports that anti-Semitism reached an all-time high in the U.S. in 2021.

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Unfortunately, you don't have to go far to find it.

"This is the 8th time in the last year that a town in Connecticut has had racist literature distributed on its streets and in its parks and that's very disturbing for the residents that live there," Memon said.

Southbury is the latest community to be impacted by acts of hate. Pamphlets with messages of white supremacy and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric were found around town.

Some neighbors woke up to it right on their driveways.

"I was furious. My children are Black and it hit literally very close to home. And that was difficult for me that my children could pick this up and read it and feel some kind of way about themselves," said Pete Gaffey of Southbury.

Experts said these extreme views are becoming all too common.

"When you see very visible incidents of it appearing more often and in public, you have to ask yourself why this is," Memon said. "You can certainly point to public figures who are now associating themselves and espousing racist views," he said.

This is why the people of Southbury said this is not something that can be ignored.

"I really believe that if you don't stop it from happening it will grow. And that's what hate does. Hate is like a cancer," said Colette Baptiste-Mombo, a member of the town's Community Relations Task Force and Justice Southbury.

Justice Southbury is a group that has held rallies for racial equity and social justice every Sunday for more than two years straight.

They were joined by dozens of people this week to send the clear message that hate has no home in their neighborhoods.

"Love is always louder and at the end of the day, love will always win. Because unfortunately there is so much hate and discrimination in this country, in this world," said Brea Varney of Southbury.

The local clergy has also come together to spread a message of unity instead.

"If people can hand out to pass out hate literature why can't we put out love literature?" said Rev. Tony Lorenzen of the Mattatuck Unitarian Universalist Society. "Love your neighbor as yourself applies to everyone period end of discussion," he said.

"My hope is that people will know that they are welcome. That who they are is a good and beautiful thing and that the community that we live in is a place where they can flourish and reside without fear," said Rev. Tuesday Rupp of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Woodbury.

Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at gmolina@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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