At least three residents and one small business in Forest Grove received menacing letters in the mail this week from an anonymous sender appearing to threaten them for flying a Black Lives Matter flag.
The identical letters, each in the same large black font, said: “Thank you for flying the BLM flag. It will make it easier to identify who is a socialist, racist, woke and un-American when the fighting breaks out.”
Forest Grove police are investigating the letters after the residents filed police reports. They weren’t immediately available to answer questions about the investigation Thursday.
Matt and Kate Barrett, who have lived in a home near Scottie’s Drive in Forest Grove for 10 years, placed a Black Lives Matter sign in their yard a year ago in the wake of racial justice protests nationwide.
Matt Barrett, who does tech support work from home, was checking the mail on June 16 when he found the letter and called police, believing it amounted to an act of intimidation. It was postmarked June 14.
He said police didn’t seem too concerned because they didn’t consider the letter a direct threat, so he filed a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspector Service. According to the federal agency’s website, threatening letters are considered a federal crime.
Kate Barrett said police didn’t take the letter and they haven’t followed up.
“We know that even within the police force in our community there are people who vehemently disagree with Black Lives Matter and other civil rights actions,” Matt Barrett said. “It’s hard to report something when you have a hunch that it may not get to the right authorities or the right voice.”
Two Forest Grove police officers face criminal charges in the case of a colleague accused of vandalizing a home that was flying a Black Lives Matter flag last fall.
Kate Barrett said the family’s next-door neighbors received the same letter, and Facebook posts in a private community group indicated at least one other home and a local business were targeted, too.
“It’s scary because of the fact that they didn’t hand-deliver it,” she said. “It seemed like it was thought out — like they were looking around, writing down addresses.”
Matt Barrett said the family is all too familiar with what he called the “hodgepodge” of different political and religious views that vary block by block, house by house in Forest Grove.
“I remember when we were putting up the Black Lives Matter sign people honked and booed driving by,” he said.
The family also flies a LGBTQ+ pride flag, which sometimes generates comments, he said.
Matt Barrett said he just hopes whoever sent the letters is punished.
“I feel more on edge than I did prior,” he said. “I’m a father of two and I have to worry that whomever did this knows where I live, I don’t want them to take it out on my kids.
“It seems cowardly that someone does this and doesn’t have the goal to even talk or confront us. If you have an issue or grievance about that sign, why? Let’s talk about it, not hurl insults or mail letters.”
–Savannah Eadens; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-221-6651; @savannaheadens
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