Byline: Donna Boynton
LUNENBURG -- Hundreds of residents crowded the town Common Sunday night, vowing with candles in hand not to let an alleged hate crime against a freshman football player define their community. Rather, they pledged to use it as an opportunity to champion tolerance and inclusion.
Town officials said they are committed to finding those who spray-painted a slur-laden statement on Isaac A. Phillip's Chase Road home and hold them accountable.
"The individual or individuals who violated our community's core values will be held accountable,'' said School Superintendent Loxi Jo Calmes. "Being here as one, saying no to hatred and no to intolerance, reveals our true character.''
In the days since the Phillips family home was vandalized with the phrase "Knights don't need n-----!'' residents said they have been struggling with a torrent of emotion -- anger, disappointment, disgust, heartbreak and sympathy.
Isaac's father, Anthony J. Phillips, is calling for the high school football coaches to step down for allowing players to allegedly haze his son for weeks, saying their lack of discipline led to the racist graffiti on their home.
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement yesterday condemning the hate crime.
"This brazen attack on the home of a high school football player warrants everyone's condemnation,'' said Robert Trestan, ADL regional director. "All of us should be disturbed by this case. Our children retreat to their homes every day because of the safety it offers. Too often, hate crimes shatter our communities' sense of safety. This case is indicative of how school bullying can quickly escalate to a hate crime and civil rights violations, making it a community-wide concern. All of us have a role to play in providing comfort and being clear that these actions are completely unacceptable.''
Isaac, an eighth-grader, plays football on Lunenburg High School's freshman and junior varsity football teams, the Blue Knights. The incident is being investigated by the local police department, which has also notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the district attorney's office.
Accompanied by his parents, Isaac spoke briefly at the vigil, saying he was disgusted by what had been done to his family.
"My great-grandfather was an important part of Lunenburg football and I always wanted to be a Blue Knight. I don't know who to trust or why my coaches haven't reached out to me. Coaches are supposed to be role models. This is...