New Milford business painted with racial slurs
NEW MILFORD — A $5,000 reward is being offered for information that could lead to the arrest of the person or people who spray-painted a swastika on Thompson’s Fine American Comfort Food last week.
The incident occured on Aug. 23 when a family awoke to find racial slurs and a swastika painted on the restaurant they had recently opened. Despite the hate speech, members of the community came out in droves to support the new business owners. An anonymous person also came forward recently to offer the reward.
Hours after the damage was discovered, Aleksandra Thompson, whose parents, David and Senka, opened the restaurant just two months ago, said the couple had to call its entire staff in to work that night.
“People have been stopping by the restaurant all day to show their support, and the phone has been ringing nonstop with people wanting to make reservations,” she said.
Several of those who stopped by during the day helped remove the graffiti. Other supporters set up a GoFundMe page to help with cleanup expenses.
Soon after opening for the evening, more than 100 people milled around the restaurant. Patrons packed the bar, and within an hour of opening, every table in the cozy restaurant was taken or reserved.
In a back hallway, Senka Thompson cried. “A lot of them I know,” she said. “A lot of them I don’t know. But it shows what I believe — the good will overcome the bad.”
“I’ve been here my whole life and I’ve never seen something like this,” said state Rep. Bill Buckbee, R-New Milford. “But we’re making lemonade from these lemons.”
Scott Elia, of New Milford, could not stay long but said he had to stop by to lend a hand. He asked several employees if there was anything he could do to help.
“To say I was disgusted with the graffiti is putting it lightly,” he said.
Walter Coffey, another New Milford resident, ordered takeout for his son after he learned of the vandalism. “We’re just showing our support for this town, our local businesses,” he said. “There is no room for hate in our town.”
David Thompson, who is black, said police called Wednesday morning to alert him to the vandalism. Even before the community rallied around him and his family, he said he would not be intimidated.
“If I close my doors, that means this person or group who did this wins,” Thompson said. “We’ve been doing pretty good moving forward, and we will not be deterred from continuing our family business.”
Still, he said, “I’m really fearful for my wife and children; that’s my main concern right now.”
Thompson, who grew up in eastern Connecticut, said he and his wife, who immigrated from the former Yugoslavia, moved their three daughters from New York to Sherman two years ago in search of a safer community and better schools.
“Opening up the restaurant has allowed me to have a shorter commute and have the family work together, so we can watch the kids grow up and be part of their lives,” he said. “But my family is very shook up over this. My wife is an immigrant, and she’s not used to this. Unfortunately, this is part of the American fabric I grew up with.
“I have the utmost confidence in the local police department,” said Thompson, who previously oversaw security at several New York City hotels. “The local police have been great. We’ll let them do what they need to do.”
Mayor David Gronbach condemned the vandalism and reiterated a statement he issued after the fatal disturbances in Charlottesville, Va., last week, saying “Hate has no home here.”
“I am here to say that while hate may live in the hearts of some in our community, we give it no shelter and no safe harbor,” Gronbach said. “I call on New Milford to come together to not only denounce this expression of hate, but to beat it back into the furthest recesses of the twisted heart that harbors it.”
The mayor promised the “full weight of the police department’s resources” will be used to track down and prosecute those involved.
David McGuire, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the ACLU, said incidents of racially tinged vandalism and harassment have increased around the country since the election of President Donald Trump.
“We are disgusted by this display of hate in New Milford,” he said. “The rise of racist and bigoted vandalism targeting people of color and religious minorities is unacceptable and dangerous. Racism is a Connecticut problem, not just a national issue, and it is up to every one of us to stand up against it.”