Village unified as police investigate racially charged signs

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Manisha Perdereaux hadn’t planned on stopping at the Narragansett Bay overlook on Beach Avenue during her Tuesday morning jog in Conimicut, but then she thought it would be a good idea to do some stretches. It was about 6:30 and the sun reflected off a still bay, the bright light shining in her face.

And then the sign that blocked the overlook came into focus. It was as if someone hit her.

“No nigga’s,” it read in giant letters.

A man who she sees cycling on her morning jogs and exchanges a friendly wave or simply a “good morning” happened to see her. He rushed to her; comforted her. Soon after, another regular on Bellman Avenue, Helen Gage, who was walking her King Charles Spaniel, arrived.

“I came upon her crying,” said Gage. “I had to stop.”

She called police.

More people either walking their dogs or out to enjoy the morning air before it became too hot stopped. None recalled ever seeing anything like this before. There’s been graffiti, dumping of trash and vandalism. The city has had to replace slats to stair railings on multiple occasions.

“They keep kicking out the rails; they’re determined to destroy this place,” said Pat August, referring to kids she’s seen at the overlook. But never has she seen anything as hateful as the sign painted on a box that might have contained a giant screen TV. She was outraged.

Yet, as it was quickly pieced together after a call to Conimicut Village President Ginny Barham, this is not an isolated incident, although police have not determined if they are connected. Barham learned from village resident Kevin McCrudden on June 27 that “nigga” had been spray painted on the side of a vacant house on Point Avenue across from his property. McCrudden sent Barham a picture and then told her a story that raises even more questions.

McCrudden reported that he and his wife saw a tall, youthful black male, who they believe painted the word, standing in front of it and taking a selfie. Barham reported the incident to police. McCrudden said Tuesday afternoon he received a call from his wife to report that the word had been “cleaned” off the house.

Col. Stephen McCartney said both incidents are under investigation and that he believes they are related.

“We don’t know what the motivation is,” the chief said. “All we have are two incidents.” Nonetheless, he feels they are linked. The words were spelled with an “a” in both instances.

Asked whether he has seen instances of hate crimes, McCartney recalled a couple of arrests made some years ago, but nothing recently.

“It seems to manifest itself every once in a while,” he said.

Dale Bianco, a longtime Conimicut resident and another morning walker who stopped at the overlook Tuesday, called the incident “a sting on our neighborhood.” She exchanged contact information with Perdereaux and invited her and her family to a July 4th party at her home.

Perdereaux grew up on St. Kitts Island in the Caribbean. She and her family moved to Warwick four years ago. Never, she said, on her morning runs or walks has she been the target of slurs or hateful comments.

“No one said anything to me,” she said.

As they waited for police to arrive, Gage give Perdereaux a hug and they both wiped away tears. Bianco and August joined to talk about family and to hear Perdereaux talk about her children and their dreams.

Gage sought the words to apologize for the actions of someone she didn’t know.

“I feel guilty like one of us did this,” she said.

Perdereaux reached for her hand.

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