PLATTSBURGH — What was supposed to just be a fishing trip turned into an incident of racial harassment this past Sunday.
Plattsburgh resident Athina Mitchell, 22, was driving to a fishing spot that she and her partner, Charles Wilkinson, had heard about at the end of Brown Road in the Treadwells Mills area of the Town of Plattsburgh.
When passing by the final home on the street, a man approached her vehicle, and began saying something inaudible to Mitchell, Mitchell said. Wilkinson eventually told her that he was saying, “Here n****r, n****r n****r,” to Mitchell, calling to her as if she were a dog.
When Wilkinson became verbally angry with the man, the man eventually picked up what appeared to be a small log, Mitchell said, and started advancing on her car, and Mitchell began to reverse back down the road.
There were a few bicyclers on the road behind her, according to Mitchell, so she had to reverse slowly.
The man then caught up to the vehicle and punched it hard enough to leave a dent, Mitchell said.
She was able to record a short video while reversing, which she later posted to Facebook.
In the video, the man can be seen chasing after the car and yelling profanities, including the n-word.
REPORTED TO POLICE
The pair later reported the incident to police, and on Monday, New York State Police arrested Derrick S. Kennedy, 35, of Altona, and charged him with fourth-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime, a felony, relating to the damages to Mitchell’s vehicle.
Kennedy punched the hood of the car, State Police Troop B Public Information Officer Trooper Jennifer Fleishman said, causing damages after he spoke racial slurs toward an occupant in the vehicle.
He was arraigned in front of Plattsburgh City Court and released on his own recognizance, Fleishman said, and is due to appear in Plattsburgh Town Court on July 28, according to the court.
While Mitchell, a mixed-race individual, said that instances of racism are not a new experience for her in the North Country, the level to which Kennedy took his actions surprised her.
“I’ve grown up here for 22 years now, knowing that some people have these opinions,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t expect it to get to that degree, to the point where somebody was actually willing to harm me or my property.”
She was glad to hear that he was apprehended following her reporting of the incident, she said, but hopes that there will be consequences for Kennedy, so others won’t have to experience the same fear she did.
“I’m not even that dark, so I don’t know what he’s going to do to people who are darker than me or appear to be more black,” Mitchell said. “I was scared because I don’t know what this man could do to anyone, not just me.”
The incident occurred in the Town of Plattsburgh, and Town Supervisor Michael Cashman said that while the North Country doesn’t hear about incidents like this all the time, they still exist.
“Too many try to act with shock and awe when events like this surface, and the sad truth is racism does exist here in our town and the North Country,” Cashman said. “The venomous hatred hurled toward Athina Mitchell was reprehensible and heartbreaking.”
He added that “hatred of this kind must be called out” so that it will never become tolerated.
— Staff Writer Cara Chapman contributed to this report
Email Ben Watson: