Tensions have been high surrounding the contentious presidential election campaign, and someone has apparently taken it too far.
An unknown person or group allegedly used weedkiller to write out what appears to say “TRUMP” in the front yard of an elderly couple in the Wolfe Pointe community just outside Lewes.
The victims, Charlotte King and Aimee Wiest, showed support for Joe Biden by placing a campaign sign in their front yard. They also have a Black Lives Matter flag and a black-and-white sign that says “Enough is Enough.” King, an 83-year-old Black woman, is the chair of the steering committee for the Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice. She said she believes the act was a targeted attack.
“This is no different than a cross burning,” she said, calling the person responsible a coward.
The vandalism is under investigation by the Delaware State Police.
“DSP detectives are currently running down active leads with this investigation,” said DSP spokesman Sgt. Darren Lester. “A witness canvass was initiated when the complaint was made known to us, and I understand that is continuing. DSP will follow up on and investigate any and all suspect leads this investigation produces. The investigation remains active and ongoing at this time as we continue to work hard to solve this case.”
Upon learning of the incident, King and Wiest received support from neighbors, and local and state leaders. King said young neighbors have stopped by with their children to apologize for what happened.
Lewes Mayor Ted Becker visited King and Wiest Nov. 14. Although Wolfe Pointe is outside the city limits, Becker frequently works with King on city-related issues.
“Obviously this is an awful thing that happened,” Becker said. “It doesn’t represent the spirit in which we try to live.”
Becker said King is a strong community advocate who played a key role in the honorific renaming of West Fourth Street to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
“She is looking to build consensus and make sure minorities are recognized for the contributions they have made not only for this community but for the whole region,” he said.
King and Wiest received personal phone calls from Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long and Attorney General Kathleen Jennings.
“The attorney general holds Charlotte King in high esteem as one of our state’s leading civil rights advocates and a friend to anyone who believes in equality under the law,” the Department of Justice said in a statement. “Vandalism is plainly unlawful, and this apparent instance is especially disheartening. The DOJ is coordinating with law enforcement and will proceed appropriately after a full investigation is complete.”
Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice held an emergency meeting Nov. 14, where they condemned the alleged hate crime and called on the Wolfe Pointe property owners association to take action.
“We don’t know who burned the president’s name across their yard, and likely never will know who did. But whoever the coward was that invaded and defaced the yard cannot go without notice by leadership of the association,” they wrote. “Good neighbors do not let something like this happen without an appropriate response. We call upon the association and all owners to denounce this cowardly act and to offer their support to the victims of this crime.”
Wolfe Pointe Property Owners Association President Paul Townsend said his group has been engaged with the situation since the vandalism was discovered and is doing its best to help.
In a letter to the community, the board condemned the actions. The board has asked its residents to check doorbell and security cameras to assist the state police in its investigation.
“We are shocked and disgusted by this crime,” the board wrote. “We offer complete support to Aimee Wiest and Charlotte King; no one should be victimized as they have been.”
SDARJ is planning to host a “Hate Has No Home Here” webinar at 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21.
Not all response has been positive. The day after the vandalism was found, King prominently displayed a Black Lives Matter flag near the writing. She said neighbors came over and told her, “All lives matter.”
“You can’t say that to a Black person,” she said. “All lives cannot matter until Black lives do.”
King said most of her immediate neighbors supported President Donald Trump and showed their support with flags or yard signs. Despite that, she said they have a good relationship in the 10 years she’s lived in the community. She doesn’t know if the person responsible lives in her community, but she believes the attack was personal.
“It’s definitely targeted,” she said. “We have an inconspicuous house in the back of this community. You have to know where you’re going to find us.”
Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, visited with King and Wiest Nov. 15. He said the community will pull together and rally behind the couple.
“We’ve seen a lot of division in this country, especially in the last few years,” Lopez said. “We’ve seen some of that negativity here locally. At the end of the day, no one deserves something like this to happen to them, especially someone who tries every day to bring people together.”
Lopez said he spoke with Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, at length about the situation. Lopez has coordinated an effort with a local landscaper to have the vandalism removed and reseeded. He hopes the writing will be gone within a few days.
King has also received phone calls from state police leadership to discuss the incident. The commander of Troop 7 visited with King and Wiest.
King said she appreciated the response from the state police.
“Everyone always says defund the police, but I’ve always supported Troop 7 and the local police,” she said. “I’m one of the only people that goes up to Dover and testifies on behalf of their budget. I advocate that the police get more money.”
King was the 2017 Honorary Commander for Troop 7. The Honorary Commander Program partners Delaware State Police commanders with key business, political and community leaders in order to foster a mutually beneficial partnership. The program encourages the exchange of ideas, different experiences and an understanding of each other’s role in the community.