COLCHESTER — A group of five children playing tennis at Bayside Park were the victims of a racially-motivated hate crime July 1.
Francis Desmarais, age 53, of Colchester, was subsequently located at Malletts Bay Campground and arrested by Colchester Police for Aggravated Disorderly Conduct and a Hate Motivated Crime.
“We just had dinner and the kids wanted to go play tennis,” Colleen Marie, the mother of two of the children said. “We’ve been coming here for years, and we've never had issues...but I heard yelling so I stepped out, and then all I heard was like the n-word, and I took off running down there.”
Marie and her two biracial sons live in Massachusetts, but have been vacationing at Malletts Bay Campground for the last six summers.
When Marie got to the tennis courts, she found Desmarais yelling and directing racial slurs at her sons, their Black friend and two local girls they recently met.
He threatened intense physical harm to the children, saying he was going to cut them up and burn their bodies, Marie remembered.
"It was just really horrible. There were too many n-words," she said.
Colchester Police received a call about the incident at 7:11 p.m. and were on the scene within six minutes, Lieutenant James Roy said.
Though Desmarais is not unfamiliar to the police department, Roy said this was the first report of his involvement in a hate-motivated crime.
About two weeks ago, an unrelated racially-motivated incident occurred on the Colchester Causeway.
Roy, who has been with the department for 34 years, said he doesn’t recall many other calls of this type in town. The fact there has been two in the last two weeks is very concerning, he said.
Over the weekend, Marie and her family packed up and left the campground. Marie said her children are traumatized and Desmarais’ presence there until his court date later this summer is worrying.
“We drove home, and on Sunday morning we were able to go to church,” she said. “We pray against hate, and we pray for love. I remind [my kids] how special they are and that they're made and created with beauty. They were born for a purpose.”
Members of the Colchester community, including Joe Handy, the campground’s owner, showed Marie and her family support. She is grateful others see this as a horrible event and hopes Desmarais gets the help he needs. In time, she and her children will return to Colchester.
“This is our place,” she said. “We actually have always called this our place of peace, and we're going to have peace again. We’re not going to be moved by hate.”