BENNINGTON — Democratic officials were concerned on Tuesday after an envelope of racist images was slid under the door of their campaign field office in Bennington.
Conor Casey, executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, said copies of the images have been sent to U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont Eric Miller, who is looking into the case.
There were four images in total: One simply depicting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in front of a U.S. flag with the caption "Trump 2016;" one displaying a version of the cartoon frog Pepe, as a caricature of a Jewish man with a Star of David yarmulke, smiling while standing in front of the burning World Trade Center; one with Pepe, this time depicted as Trump, standing on one side of a fence, with characters depicting Mexican and Muslim stereotypes on the other side, while Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on approvingly with the caption, "This Trump guy, I like him;" and finally, a cartoon version of Trump speaking with a Mexican woman, who tells him that he cannot separate her from her baby, who is attached to an anchor chained to her body.
Aaron Sawyer, who works at the Bennington office, called the action "aggressive" and "unusual."
Casey said this was the second similar incident over the last few weeks across the state. In the first, he said, imagery related to the Klu Klux Klan was mailed from an address in Delaware. This incident, he said, is more disturbing, as the perpetrator is obviously someone within the community.
"It's a pretty horrific election season," he said, "with the vitriol and the casual racism being thrown around." He said some volunteers have felt threatened by this and similar behavior, but that, "I don't think it's going to be enough to dissuade people to come in."
Pepe made headlines earlier this campaign season, when Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's team posted an article on her website in September attempting to explain the connection. "Here's the short version: Pepe is a cartoon frog who began his internet life as an innocent meme enjoyed by teenagers and pop stars alike," it reads, "But in recent months, Pepe's been almost entirely co-opted by the white supremacists who call themselves the 'alt-right.' They've decided to take back Pepe by adding swastikas and other symbols of anti-semitism and white supremacy."
Bennington Representative Kiah Morris, a Democrat who is black, was targeted on Twitter by a Bennington resident and Trump supporter earlier this year, who posted a caricature of a black man with the caption, "S---, I be representin dem white m---f--- of Bennington, gnome sayin?" The Banner dashed certain of the caption's words for publication. That action was roundly denounced by political figures across the state, including Gov. Peter Shumlin, also a Democrat, who said, "There is no place for racism or racist vitriol in Vermont or anywhere else. This communication is an affront to Kiah and her family, to her neighbors and community, and to all Vermonters who care for one another and have no place in their hearts for hate. I know Vermonters join me in condemning hatred, bigotry, and intimidation."
Contact Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.