On the afternoon of the presidential inauguration, Candace Breen checked her mail and found a troubling letter. The writing was rough, with poor formatting and grammar, but the message was clear. It started “Dear Neighbors,” then dispensed with any civility. Breen, a Black woman, had signs in her yard supporting Black Lives Matter and other progressive causes. According to the letter, this made her a “disgusting, filthy American who should pray for forgiveness.” The letter demanded she take down the signs and concluded with a handwritten note dated January 6: “BLM and Antifa storm capital proven on video people arrested [sic]. Stop watching CNN you’re brain dead.”
“Time stood still,” Breen remembers. “I can’t understand how someone could say that to a Black person.” She thought about ignoring the letter, but remembered earlier provocations culminating in her neighbor posting a sign over her garden of Trump holding an AR-15. Breen’s son had asked, “Mom, does that mean she wants to shoot us?”
Determined to set a good example for her son and take back her feeling of security, Breen went to the Barrington PD with the letter. She was interviewed by police, spoke with the Barrington postmaster, and even talked to the FBI. According to Breen, police interviewed her neighbor, Laura Larrivee, at which time Larrivee confessed to sending the letter.
While investigations by multiple law enforcement agencies are ongoing, Breen’s story has been debated in public forums, on social media, and in the Barrington Times. Cameras on the Breen property captured three teens yelling “F- Black Lives Matter,” and “Swastika!” She obtained a No Trespassing Order after Larrivee walked onto their property with a dog to confront Breen and her husband. To sleep at night, Breen now relies on sleeping pills.
Despite everything, Breen says she is humbled by the support and love from the community. Mel Bynum, educator and founder of East Bay for Diversity, organized a candlelight vigil in front of the Barrington Town Hall and a rally the following week.
“I know that I may face consequences for speaking up, but I will not be quiet when confronted with hate. I will not be quiet when confronted with insults. I will not be quiet when confronted with irrational beliefs, such as how my Black Lives Matter flag on my lawn needs to be taken down because it offends someone,” said Breen at the rally. “The fact that my life matters is not offensive. The belief that my life matters is not offensive, unless you believe my life doesn’t matter.”