Police investigating racist incident in Newburyport

A screenshot of a Facebook post by Adama Barry reportedly showing a man who yelled a racist slur at a Black teenager in downtown Newburyport as he and white friends were offering doughnut holes to passersby last week. 

NEWBURYPORT — City police are investigating an incident in which a white man shouted a racist slur from his car at a Black teenager on State Street last week as he was with white friends giving away donut holes to passersby.

In a press release Monday, Marshal Mark Murray said officers responding to a report of an outdoor dispute Thursday on State Street were met by a woman who said a man yelled at a group of teenagers before driving away in his car. The teenagers said the man shouted the N-word at the 14-year-old Black teen.

Police were given cell phone video that shows part of the exchange along with the man’s license plate, and the man was identified.

“The Newburyport Police Department is actively investigating this incident, using all resources at our disposal,” Murray said. “We do not tolerate acts of racism or bias in our community, and we will pursue this investigation, wherever the facts take us.”

He said the department will consult with the Essex District Attorney’s Office on whether the incident meets the standard for a hate crime or bias-motivated crime.

Adama Barry, a Black single mother whose 14-year-old son was the target of the racist incident, said she was not present Thursday, but was told by her son and other witnesses that he and two white friends were “sharing doughnuts” they had bought at Dunkin’ Donuts with people downtown. When they offered the man a doughnut on State Street, the man “started being racial,” shouting the N-word at the teenager and saying he didn’t want any doughnuts.

Barry, who lives in Newburyport with her three children, said while she is not sure what police can do, she hopes her son will receive an apology from the man.

“I was hoping if he could apologize to my son that would be helpful,” she said. “I am trying to raise them (her children) with no hate in their hearts.”

After the incident, a bystander shared a photo of the man who allegedly shouted the slur on the Facebook group Newburyport Commons, where a lengthy discussion ensued. Barry said one woman recognized her son as the man pictured and called the police, who later contacted Barry to ask questions.

Barry said her son, who will be a freshman at Newburyport High School in September, was “very upset” by the incident, especially in light of other racism-fueled happenings around the country, underscored by the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died as he was pinned under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.

Barry said her children were “scared for their lives with everything going on lately. I keep talking to them and people in town keep reaching out, and that feels very good.”

But Barry emphasized that last week’s incident was “not the first time” she and her children have experienced racism in Newburyport.

She said that last year, a former neighbor of theirs “would not give (her family) peace,” and frequently called her children the N-word.

On another occasion, Barry, who works as a personal care assistant, responded to a help wanted ad in The Daily News, only to be told by the prospective employer that they “could not deal with Black people.” She also recalled one day when picking up a client from their house that a neighbor said they did not want her walking in the building’s driveway.

“We have been called the N-word and told so many times to go back where we came from. People in Newburyport told us that,” she said. “I know there are people that are saying there’s no racism in Newburyport ... even if (the man that shouted a slur) is not from Newburyport, that does not mean there are not other people in Newburyport that are not racist.”

Barry said she is thankful for the support she received from the many residents who have contacted her since the incident.

“I just want to say I am grateful that we got a lot of love out of this,” Barry said. “I am trying to focus on the positive, but people should be aware that this is out there. There is racism in Newburyport.”

Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newbury­port City Hall. He can be reached via email at jshea@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.

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