Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

Anti-abortion hate speech pops up in Ghent

This sign was posted during the night in front of a Town of Ghent home. Photo contributed

GHENT—There’s no summer vacation for hate speech. Some time between Saturday, July 9 and Sunday, July 10 handmade signs appeared on the front lawns of two county homes. Both had the same message. It read: “BABY KILLERS LIVE HERE.”

One of the signs was at the home of Route 9 resident Christopher Burke. Mr. Burke has no idea who posted the handwritten, makeshift lawn sign. It’s mounted on metal frame typical of political lawn signs.

In the last few years signs Mr. Burke said that he’s put signs on his property in support of Joe Biden and local Democratic candidates. Those signs were stolen or vandalized.

Just before press deadline another Ghent resident reported that a sign with the same wording was placed at his residence. He said he had a small Biden-Harris campaign sticker from the 2020 election on his mailbox post. The president’s name was scratched off.

Mr. Burke calls the new sign “a provocation” and says a neighbor of his has, in the past, seen a vehicle drive on his road, pausing when the opportunity arises to rip up earlier pro-Democratic signs belonging to Mr. Burke.

He said he and his wife “happily moved to Ghent” in 2016 or 2017.” They became full-time residents once the pandemic took hold. They each now work from home. “It feels like the place we want to be,” Mr. Burke said, even though he said he was aware that there were members of the Oath Keepers in the area.

One neighbor Mr. Burke did contact is his town supervisor, Craig Simmons, who told Mr. Burke he would look into the matter. Responding by email Tuesday to a question from The Columbia Paper, Supervisor Simmons confirmed that he had met with Mr. Burke and had “advised him to have law enforcement investigate this disturbing action.”

Mr. Simmons wrote that The Town of Ghent had passed a resolution (#16) in January 2022 “condemning this type of action.” He ended his email with a statement widely circulated earlier this year: “There is NO place for HATE in this Town.”

Another person looking into the new sign is Chatham resident Michael Richardson, who publishes the Hate Watch Report website at . He described the sign as hate speech and said the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has been notified about the matter.

Interviewed by phone Monday afternoon Mr. Burke said, “My wife and I are shaken” by the latest incident, but added, “We’re not losing sleep over it.”

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