by Doug McClure
HARDWICK – Resident Jessica Gasper moved to Hardwick under a year ago and said she has since been dealing with frequent harassment from neighboring tenants in her rental building. The situation came to a head a week ago Saturday when she woke up to find her door defaced with the words “Go back to Maryland, you kike bitch.”
Gasper is half-Asian and is also Jewish. She said that Alliance Property Management landlord Shawna Hanley has ignored her complaints until recently. Then, said Gasper, “she acted like it was just my fault. What did I do to possibly incite someone doing that to more door? She seemed completely unaware of anti-Semitism and just completely not empathetic. I don’t even know if she’s educated about the issue, but it seemed like something she’s never cared about or will care about.”
Gasper said she sent Hanley a link from the Anti-Defamation League, which describes itself as an organization founded in 1913 “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Gasper also contacted town manager David Upson and the Hardwick Police Department. She said HPD told her there was not much they could do “because it’s not destruction of property.”
Gasper said she moved to Vermont last year, and had planned on moving to Stowe last year to be close to the Stowe Jewish Center, which is the closest synagogue, “just to kind of acclimate ourselves. I didn’t know anyone here. And this whole COVID thing made it so Hardwick was the place were we could find a reasonably-priced, affordable home.”
Gasper said “we got here around last Thanksgiving, and we just immediate [felt it] from most people, if not all. There are a couple of families who are normal and nice and fine… we put up some Hanukkah decorations around December 10. We had matzo crackers thrown on the doorway and some oranges.”
She described those who are harassing her as “overtly-right-wing extremist types … Qanon” and added that “that’s kind of concerning to me.”
Gasper said things came to a head a week ago Saturday.
“Throughout the past nine moths, ten months, however long it’s been we’ve been here, we’ve had so many negative interactions with [the neighbors], [to] where we don’t want to interact with them, but they call us names, etc. [That Saturday] one of the tenants came up. She was drunk and trying to start problems and call us names again, and she used the word ‘kike.’ She then went outside my window, also used the word ‘kike’ with a male friend. And then we woke up the next morning and there was a message on my door saying, ‘Go back to Maryland, you kike bitch.'”
It was at the point Gasper went to the police. Vermont’s statutes describe a hate crime as “any crime committed in Vermont that is maliciously motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, ancestry, age, service in the armed forces of the United States, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity is a hate crime.” As of press time, the Vermont Attorney General’s office has not responded as to whether the actions Gasper describes fall under the purview of that statute.
She next went to the select board and related her experiences. Gasper spoke with Equity Committee Chair Ceilidh Galloway-Kane. She said the board “was pretty empathetic and understanding and wanted to do more. So, I liked the response.”