Editorial: What about the email investigation?

Published: 8/5/2016 6:30:45 PM

We are loath to provide anonymous cyber-bullies with a public platform, because that’s exactly what these cowards crave — attention.

But emails with doctored, digitized images meant to demean and embarrass, or blatant written threats trying to silence viewpoints or get an elected official to retreat from taking action, are too serious to chalk up to someone’s twisted sense of humor.

They deserve, instead, to be thrown under the disinfecting light of public scrutiny. These are crimes and should be handled and investigated as such.

Greenfield Town Councilor Karen “Rudy” Renaud is the latest target of an anonymous attack. She received an email stating she would wind up in a concentration camp when Republican nominee Donald Trump is elected president. But the threat didn’t end there. The message also included, “Maybe they will cure you of your perversions, too.”

It didn’t end with the email. Someone posted to an anti-Semitic website denigrating Renaud and her response to the incidents involving fellow Town Councilor Penny Ricketts and the Greenfield-based Pierce Brothers Coffee, who faced racial and religious harassment, respectively. Ricketts and the coffee company had digitally altered photos sent to the same website.

The use of anonymous emails and hate-filled websites is the outlet for someone who feels threatened by strong women who publicly speak their minds and do what they think is right for our community. That one woman is African-American and the other gay only reinforces that this is hate speech, pure and simple.

Renaud, in her role as a councilor, has recently brought forward a proposed ordinance that looks to create a stronger mechanism for dealing with hate crimes in town. This would include having a civil-rights officer inside the Greenfield Police Department to investigate these incidents and keep the Human Rights Commission and the public informed about the progress and outcome of investigations.

Renaud’s proposal would have those found guilty of hate crimes sentenced to community service. This idea seems to have touched a nerve. The person who posted on the the website called community service “slave labor.”

Ricketts has been dealing with this harassment for weeks. It began about the time she was proposing the council adopt a “Resolution of Respect” in response to what she saw as a decline in the level of public discourse in Greenfield.

Altered photos of her were sent to her fellow councilors and other targeted groups in town. No one has claimed responsibility, and no one has been charged.

These acts of hate and harassment may be a reflection of what’s happening on the national level in politics, where outrageous remarks get attention in the press and on social media.

But we can create a higher standard here, one that has little tolerance for these kinds of cowardly attacks. It begins by continued public support for Renaud and Ricketts and extends to finding and identifying the source of these emails.

We have heard little from the Greenfield Police Department about its investigation. It’s time to let the public in on its progress in finding the person or people responsible for these messages of hate. We encourage and challenge the Greenfield Police to reach out to District Attorney David Sullivan and the FBI for help in following the electronic trail left by those responsible. If those connections have been made, say so, and let us all in on the effort to shine that light into the dark places.

In this case, action does speak louder than words.


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