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New Hampshire investigators are looking into a disturbing incident with echoes from America’s racist past — an attack on an 8-year-old biracial boy that his family is calling an attempted lynching.
The boy survived the harrowing ordeal and was later treated for rope burns to his neck, and investigators are seeking to determine if he was the victim of a hate crime.
If the attack is deemed a hate crime or a civil rights violation, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said in a statement that his office was "prepared to take any and all appropriate action."
The boy’s mother, Cassandra Merlin, said her son and his 11-year-old sister were out playing when a group of teenagers began taunting them with racial epithets, saying things like “white pride,” before stringing her son up with a rope from a tire swing and pushing him off a picnic table.
“They walked away and left him there hanging,” Merlin told the online publication The Root.
The boy was able to escape after swinging back and forth at least three times, the boy's grandmother, Lorrie Slattery, said in an interview with a local paper, The Valley News. “I think he had a guardian angel,” she said.
The incident occurred on Aug. 28 in Claremont, a small factory city of some 13,000 people that is overwhelmingly white.
Merlin said she went public after her son was treated at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase later confirmed that the incident was being investigated.
"I know what is being reported has caused not just my community to ask questions but the entire nation wants to know more,” Chase said in a statement that appeared on the department’s Facebook page.
Gov. Chris Sununu said he had asked for regular updates on the investigation. “Hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated in New Hampshire,” he said.
In a show of support for the boy, there was a “Time for Reflection” rally Tuesday in Claremont. Some in the crowd carried signs that read “No More Strange Fruit,” a reference to an anti-lynching song, "Strange Fruit," made famous by Billie Holiday.