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New London school board president target of racist incident

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New London — Regina Mosley had an involuntary response when she first noticed the racial slur scrawled on the side of an envelope that had been delivered to her front step.

“I got a knot in my stomach and felt like I wanted to throw up,” she said.

She then tried to rationalize it.

“Is this some kind of joke? No. This is really not funny. This is hateful,” she said.

The package contained background material for the upcoming Board of Education meeting and was left at her New London home by a courier. It seemed to have been moved from where it is usually left. She’d already paged through the materials when she first noticed the message in black marker, “Die, (N-word) Die,” written on the envelope.

Mosley, president of the school board, said she contacted New London police.

Police already had investigated a similarly racist incident during a school board meeting in June. The Zoom meeting was interrupted by several individuals yelling racial slurs during a discussion on the need for police officers in the schools. Mosley was at that meeting.

“I’m trying to keep it together. Does this mean I’m in danger?” Mosley said of Wednesday's incident, through bouts of tears during a phone interview Thursday. "How do I know someone’s not going to jump out of the bushes and hurt me?"

Mosley posted a photo of the slur on her Facebook page with the message, “I don’t need a reminder that there are racists in my city but thanks for putting me on notice.”

Her post garnered an outpouring of support, sympathy and anger. The outrage and an outpouring of support for Mosley continued at Thursday's emotional Board of Education meeting, during which numerous members of the public turned out to speak. Speaker after speaker expressed sympathy and recognized Mosley as a leader in the community.

The school board jointly read a statement with school Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie, saying they “stand against any, and all threats and forms of racism.”

“We reject all of those who attempt to intimidate any of the board members, administrators, staff or students. Today we say in full voice that we stand behind and give our full support to our President,” the statement reads.  ”To those who felt the need to attack the Board President, know this, when you threaten one of us, you threaten all of us.  Race shaming and threatening someone’s life is a federal crime, and your behavior will not go unpunished as your actions have been reported to authorities.”

All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church Rev. Carolyn Patierno said the community should not turn a blind eye to the incident and called for a “bold and sustained” response “that will affect change that all of our young people especially in our city can look to and be inspired by.”

Laura Burfoot reiterated the community's support for Mosley.

“If you don’t know, Regina has been working for years, literally years, for the betterment of this community, for the betterment of the young people in our community,” Burfoot said. “I cannot understate enough how much we owe it to you, Regina, that we show up at this moment. This is a big deal. This is an attack on her doorstep, which is supposed to be a sacred and safe space."

Eliza Brown said Mosley was elected in part because she represents the Black and brown community that so many can identify with. "An attack against you is an attack against all of us," Brown said.

Mosley was in tears during the virtual meeting.

Earlier in the day, she said she supposes that being a Black woman with Eastern Pequot ancestry in an elected position makes her a target but was unable to come up with a good answer when police asked if she had any idea who might have a problem with her.

She said she is disappointed but not altogether surprised at the incident, having dealt with different forms of racism most of her life.

“I’ve had to deal with this stuff as far back as I can remember. There are so many different levels of colorism and racism happening in our communities every day and it's disgusting,” she said.

She suspects the incident might also be associated with the divisiveness at the national level at the moment, “a last gasp” as the nation ushers in a new presidential administration, she said. Police are expected to canvass the neighborhood and collect any video footage as part of their investigation. Police confirmed an investigation is underway and the perpetrator faces potential hate crime charges.

Mayor Michael Passero, on behalf of the city, issued a response on Friday, calling the incident “clearly disgraceful, intolerable and intended to terrorize and dominate.”

The statement reads, in part, “The disgraceful actions in this effort to intimidate and harass the Board of Education President Regina Mosley will fail to achieve the intention of terrorization in this matter. We as a community have come together to defiantly and aggressively embrace and support Regina in this moment of darkness in our community.”

Passero said he had reviewed the incident closely with city officials and was confident a criminal prosecution would be forthcoming.

“City residents please know this does not reflect the values our city. We are certainly fortunate to have leaders like Regina Mosley who have unselfishly stepped up to leadership roles in our City and I am proud to serve with her. I admire and respect her sacrifice. We must show Regina, that her City appreciates her and we will not tolerate this in our community. We shall stand by her with unwavering resolve more than ever to drive this kind of hate out of our City,” the statement reads.

The investigation into the people who crashed the June virtual Board of Education meeting was suspended pending the discovery of any further information.

New London police Capt. Brian Wright said the investigation into the Zoom meeting, in which the individuals did not attempt to hide their faces, led police to addresses in Europe and Florida. Police had contacted Florida authorities to investigate a certain location but the address belonged to an older couple with no knowledge of any outside use of their Wi-Fi signal.

g.smith@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version includes a statement from Mayor Michael Passero.

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