Joan Vennochi

'Despicable' racism in Marshfield

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Joan Vennochi
June 19, 2008

THE RECENT beating of a black teenager in Marshfield was a vicious assault committed by a group of thugs who appeared to be motivated by race. Now Marshfield has to answer for it too.

So far, police charged seven people with beating, kicking, and stabbing Tizaya Robinson, 17, of Jamaica Plain, with a stick and broken beer bottles during a brawl that broke out after midnight on June 12, following a house party.

According to the report filed by police, witnesses "saw a large group of approximately 10-12 people including males and females beating a black male . . . The black male tried to run away over the fence but the group caught him on the other side of road and continued to jump on him, kick him, and punch him . . . all while shouting derogatory racial statements."

Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said, "You hear a fact pattern like that, it's outrageous. It's conduct that you hope would be behind all of us. Here it is right in our face again. We will deal with all the people responsible."

The alleged brutality continued even after Robinson was knocked nearly unconscious. Police found several pools of blood, a stick with blood, and a broken beer bottle that had blood "and what appeared to be skin on the edges."

One of those arrested, Jay P. Rains, 19, of Duxbury, used a derogatory racial epithet "at least 25 times" when speaking afterward to police. All seven suspects, whose ages range from 17 to 22, are charged with attempted murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery with intent to intimidate, and civil rights violations. Under Massachusetts law, certain criminal conduct is considered a hate crime when it is motivated by bias against a person's race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability.

The Anti-Defamation League put out a statement strongly condemning the attack and praising Marshfield police.

"It's not fair to judge Marshfield by one hate crime. What's more important is how Marshfield, or any community, reacts," said Robert O. Trestan, ADL Eastern States Civil Rights counsel. "Does the community come together? Are the police thorough? Do the prosecutors pursue the case?"

Trestan said the community's response so far has been "first rate." Describing the attack as "despicable," Marshfield Selectman Michael A. Maresco, told the Globe's John Ellement, "This has put a bad mark on the town. This is not the way folks in Marshfield think."

Unfortunately, it is the way some folks in Marshfield think. According to the Patriot Ledger, five of the suspects are from Marshfield.

Rocco Longo, Marshfield's town administrator, said that in calling it a hate crime, the Marshfield police "put us on the right course to do the things we need to do to address it." As a result, town officials are reaching out to groups like the ADL and plan to rejuvenate a "No place for hate" program that had fallen by the wayside.

Added Longo: "This tends to be one of those issues that towns don't want to address . . . Maybe we do get complacent."

Marshfield and the rest of the country may want to believe in a "post-racial" America, where Barack Obama can win the White House and a person is no longer defined solely by skin color. But the Marshfield police report tells a familiar, old, and ugly story, and there's nothing post-racial about it.

A fight began with racial epithets and ended in a brutal attack punctuated by more racial epithets. One witness told police she heard glass breaking and a male screaming over and over again "you (expletive, racial epithet), I'm going to kill you." The witness also said one male "was using a large stick like a harpoon, spearing Mr. Robinson."

One of the suspects told police Robinson used mace; Robinson told police he used it to defend himself.

He couldn't stop the hate-fueled violence. He was hit over the head, struck on the shoulder, and stabbed in the arms and leg by his attackers. Now, the town of Marshfield will be judged too, by its reaction to their hate crime.

Joan Vennochi can be reached at

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