The town of Salem, Mass. was stunned earlier this week after police reported that seven vandals planted fireworks inside the newspaper box of a local LGBT publication.
The Rainbow Times, the largest LGBT publication in New England, was targeted by assailants at 1:19 a.m. on Tuesday. The incident took place at a pedestrian mall on Essex street, one known as a prime location for shoppers during the daytime.
According to reports, this isn’t the first such attack on the Times.
The newspaper has been vandalized on 10 previous occasions, including an incident that occurred during this June’s LGBT Pride Month.
Salem mayor Kim Driscoll said that she’s “sad and upset” about the attack, as the small town has worked to foster an environment of tolerance and inclusion. “This cowardly attack runs contrary,” she told Boston TV station, WCVB, “but to what it means to be a city whose very name means peace.”
Nicole Lashomb, the editor-in-chief of the Times, said she was shocked by the surveillance footage of the incident.
“When I first saw it, I gasped and cupped my hand over my mouth,” Lashomb told the Boston Herald. “It was that shocking to me. After the explosion went off the box is sitting there in flames until the officers arrive.”
She believes that the vandals were sending a clear message.
“The message is they don’t want us there,” Lashomb said, adding: “I think you have to be concerned about violence. I think with the presidential race and the political climate … it could lead to more violence.”
Times publisher Gricel Ocasio added that the paper will not back down in the face of hatred.
“This is a form of censorship,” Ocasio said. “I guess, perhaps, they thought they can silence us and we would be gone. We will not be silenced. We have two new boxes coming into the city. We are not deterred.”
Driscoll, who graces the cover of the August issue of the Times, said that the town will work tirelessly to ensure this never happens again.
“We are a community that supports each other as neighbors and, even in the face of violence and hatred, today should be no different,” Driscoll said. “Fear and hate may cloud the hearts of those committing this act, but it will never, ever characterize this community.”
Although Salem Police Chief Mary Butler has referred to the incident as a “hate crime,” there’s no word yet as to whether the town will prosecute it as such. Massachusetts has an antidiscrimination law on the books that protects LGBT individuals from discrimination.