Racist Graffiti In Glover Galvanizes Community Members Against Intolerance

Sep 15, 2017

Under cover of darkness, someone took to the back roads of Glover last week to spread messages of hate.  Since then, the community response has been both swift and broad.

With cans of spray paint, one or more perpetrators tagged a half-dozen places around the Andersonville neighborhood in Glover. Public property included a paved roadway and a stop sign. They also vandalized private property, from mailboxes and posts to a hay storage barn at Andersonville Farm.

"We felt compelled to respond," said Mateo Kehler. "This is really a violation of our community at large and of our business and our culture. We thought over the weekend about what kind of response we wanted to make and it’s gone crazy."

Kehler and his brother Andy are co-founders of Jasper Hill Farm, a high-end cheesemaking operation in Greensboro. They also own Andersonville Farm and the dairy herd that resides there.

Their response came via a facebook post, including a partially-redacted photo of the graffiti on their barn. Spray painted on the white plastic hoop barn is "#Get Out" and Nazi symbols. The racially charged ‘n-word’ was blacked out of the picture. Under the photo, they offered a reward.

"We offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators," says Kehler. "But what we found was that lots of people wanted to participate and contribute."

The cows at Andersonville Farm produce milk for Jasper Hill Farm cheese.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

So this week Jasper Hill put up a GoFundMe campaign, seeded with that $1,000. The goal was to up the reward to $5,000. They got there in under three hours.

While Kehler says he and his brother do not feel they were personally targeted, the hatred still strikes home at Jasper Hill Farm.

"You know, if you look at our business, we’re all here," he says. "We have people of color. We have straight people; we have gay people. We have trans people. We have Latino people. We have immigrants that are working in our business. And that is Vermont."

Just a few days after the vandalism occurred, all physical evidence of it was erased. Much of that quick response was due to the efforts of Glover Select Board Chairman Jack Sumberg.

"I got a call from a resident, a Glover resident, I believe it was Friday afternoon, saying that he had just been up Shadow Lake Road and that there was some racist graffiti and a swastika painted on the road," says Sumberg. "So I went down there with a can of spray paint and painted over it."

He also discovered sexually explicit graffiti on the road, which he says was "completely unoriginal" and "what you would typically find in a high school boys room."

The crew at Andersonville Farm had their tagged barn scrubbed clean shortly after the offensive graffiti was discovered.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

In addition to covering up the offensive graffiti on the roadway, Sumberg had the Glover road crew replace a tagged stop sign. He agrees with Kehler that the graffiti didn’t seem to single out an individual, or even one group.  In fact, he says, several groups were targeted.

"They got black people, they got Jews and they got women, all in one," he says. "So, that covers a lot of territory."

Sumberg says that, despite the increase in intolerant behavior nationwide, this is the first he knows of this type of crime in Glover. Although, he says, there was a rash of Black Lives Matter signs stolen in nearby Craftsbury last summer. At this point, Sumberg says he views this latest act as an isolated incident.

While no one has been charged, Sumberg says he guesses it is a group of young men.

"I think they’re just acting out, but, you know, I think it’s just where some young men are at this point in time."

Mateo and Andrew Kehler's Jasper Hill Farm, in Greensboro, is home base to the Jasper Hill cheese operation. Andersonville Farm, in Glover, houses part of their dairy herd.
Credit Amy Kolb Noyes / VPR

Kehler agrees, and he says that’s exactly why he’s speaking out.

"One thing I think we’re realizing through all of this is that we don’t live in a bubble," says Kehler. "It’s what’s happening out there in the United States of America. It’s happening right here in Vermont as well and we just couldn’t brush that under the rug."

Kehler says that his grandfathers' generation shed blood fighting against this type of intolerance and it houldn't be allowed to resurface.

"That generation sacrificed a lot so that kind of racist and Nazi ideology wouldn't have a space in our society and it may be time for some more history lessons," he says.

The Vermont State Police is investigating the incident as an unlawful mischief case. According to Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett, Vermont law allows for a charge to be elevated to a hate crime only if it specifically targets a person in a protected class.

State statute specifies a crime is considered a hate crime if "conduct is maliciously motivated by the victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, service in the U.S. Armed Forces, disability as defined by 21 V.S.A. § 495d(5), sexual orientation, or gender identity."