Police investigate possible hate crime in Bridport

It’s unfortunate that people are feeling afraid to call the police and they don’t trust the police. — Marita Canedo of Migrant Justice

BRIDPORT — An activist group alleges that a group of people recently surrounded farmworkers’ homes in Bridport, shouting insults and firing guns.

The group Migrant Justice has called on police to investigate, which they are doing.

Following publication of the incidents on social media, Vermont State Police announced Tuesday that troopers have been investigating multiple incidents and vandalism on farms and at nearby residences near Bridport over the past three weeks.

VSP Lt. Jeff Danoski, commander of the New Haven state police barracks, confirmed on Wednesday police are interviewing three suspects in connection with the case.

Officials declined to disclose specific locations of the alleged crime, out of concern for the safety of the victims.

In a Migrant Justice Facebook post from Monday, the organization said that on multiple nights, farmworkers’ houses have been surrounded by a group of people who yelled insults, and broke windows and air-conditioning units. According to the post, the group also fired guns into the air.

Marita Canedo of Migrant Justice said that groups of people surrounded multiple houses on several nights earlier this month.

She called the incident “an organized hate crime.”

Danoski said not all the victims in the case are migrant workers.

“We’re still waiting for victims to respond with damage estimates,” he said. “It’s a very involved investigation.”

State Police issued a press release on Wednesday stating most of the incidents occurred late at night and/or in the early morning.

“These incidents have occurred primarily in farm fields, on farms and at various residences near these farms and farm fields,” the release states. “Through investigation, it appears that many of the incidents are related and committed by the same individuals. ”

State police are asking anyone with information about these incidents to contact Trooper Mae Murdock at 802-388-4919.

Migrant Justice alleged that when a report was filed that identified someone involved in the group, police responded it “was a drunken act where the person lost control of their actions.”

Another incident happened earlier this week, according to Canedo, when a Migrant Justice organizer visited farmworkers in the same area and had a tense exchange with someone at the farm and was asked to leave. After visiting with farmworkers, he found that his tires were flat. Migrant Justice said there was also a threatening call to their office.

Canedo said Migrant Justice is concerned about the way police responded to a “vulnerable” population, that is often reluctant to contact law enforcement because of concerns about immigration status.

“It’s unfortunate that people are feeling afraid to call the police and they don’t trust the police,” she said.

Police said they have been updating the local state’s attorney on the status of the case and are following up on several leads.

Canedo said that police have been in better communication with her group since Migrant Justice shared details about the incidents on Facebook. As of Tuesday night, the post had been shared more than 1,300 times.

She said there is a greater need to address harassment and discrimination in Vermont.

“There is a lot to do in Vermont with fighting racism,” Canedo said.

Addison Independent's John Flowers contributed to this report.

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