Resident Lee Fich has a big back yard on Shirley Street where she likes to host socially-distanced gatherings. But according to her and her friends, their coffee talk has recently been disturbed.
Fich alleges that five separate times between July and October, a man drove by her property and shouted racial slurs at whoever was in the yard. Three of her neighbors corroborated her claim, saying they were present when it happened.
“I think it’s because I have a Black Lives Matter sign,” said Fich. “It’s the only connection I can think of.”
On one occasion, two of Fich’s friends wrote down the driver’s license plate number and encouraged Fich to call the police. Officers made contact with the vehicle owner on Oct. 24, according to Winthrop Police Chief Terence Delahanty.
Based on the online police log, the Transcript was able to identify the driver as a longtime Winthrop homeowner. He spoke to us at his home on Nov. 12, when he admitted to a confrontation with Fich and her friends, but denied that it included any racial language.
“They yelled at me to slow down and I said something back,” he said. “It might not have been nice, but it wasn’t racial or anything. Why would I do that? There were no Black or Asian people.”
The man denied seeing the Black Lives Matter sign, but added that he doesn’t agree with the movement. He called the incident “a minor traffic dispute” that happens “a thousand times a day.”
“There’s nothing to look into,” he said. “I didn’t do anything wrong. Why are they making a big deal out of it?”
The retiree said that he hadn’t driven by the address since the police spoke to him and told him not to.
On Nov. 3, 43 Winthrop residents sent a letter to town officials, urging them to take reports of racism seriously.
“We implore [you] to address this issue in a comprehensive and public manner, and introduce policies and practices to ensure that the public is made aware of any incidents of racism or other hateful biases that cross your desk,” their email states.
On Nov. 4, Winthrop police reported the incident to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, which is currently investigating reports of racist abuse by first responders in the region.
“We will be carefully reviewing each of these incidents,” said DA Rachel Rollins in a statement Nov. 5. “Hate and bigotry will not be tolerated within Suffolk County and certainly not within the ranks of first responders.”
The incident was also on the agenda for the Nov. 16 meeting of the Winthrop Commission on Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations. Chief Delahanty could not discuss specifics, as the matter was still under investigation.
Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt Town Councilor Tracy Honan’s Pledge against Hate and to present it to the Town Council at its Nov. 24 meeting.