Police investigate hateful message

PHOTO PROVIDED TO THE REFORMER"Toten die Juden," meaning "kill the Jews," was written on a sidewalk on Elliot Street over the weekend.

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BRATTLEBORO — Police interviewed people who discovered a hateful message written in chalk over the weekend and have found that criminal charges would likely be difficult to bring on the author.

The message on an Elliot Street sidewalk read, "Toten die Juden," which in German means "kill the Jews."

Brattleboro Police Capt. Mark Carignan told the Reformer an unlawful mischief charge would not be applicable in this case.

"That's basically the legal term for vandalism," he said, noting that the situation would be different had the message been written in paint or marker. A disorderly conduct charge would be complicated, Carignan said, because then "you cross over into the area of First Amendment protections involving freedom of speech."

Regardless, the police department is investigating.

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"Someone wrote it," Carignan said. "Someone has inappropriate thoughts involving Jewish people."

Carignan said police want to meet with the individual to "ensure this was just some sick joke and offensive thing to do," and that the individual did not intend to mean harm. The person could be referred to services if they need help, he added.

"We have a couple of leads we're following up on," Carignan told the Reformer.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.