Raccoon arson leads Lebanon County residents to promote anti-racism resolution

Matthew Toth   | Lebanon Daily NewsplayShow Caption
Hide Caption

Rise in assaults, robberies rattle Asian Americans Asian Americans are on edge after a recent wave of racist assaults and robberies targeting their communities. More than 3,000 incidents have been reported to a California-based reporting center, since the pandemic began in March 2020. (March 2)

AP On a late November night, a pickup truck stopped in front of the Lebanon County home of John and Ellie Salahub to make a statement. Signs in their front yard had been drawing vulgar responses by passersby, but this time, Nov.

16, an animal was set on fire. Home security footage showed that someone got out of the truck, and within moments, the front yard burst into light.  “Almost immediately, flames flare up several feet towards a wooden fence and a tree,” John Salahub said. “When the flames subsided, we were horrified to see a raccoon had obviously been doused with flammable fluid and ignited.” 

On the front lawn of their North Cornwall Township home, they had posted signs promoting Black Lives Matter, Martin Luther King and Biden/Harris. “As a result we’ve been experiencing passersby shouting profanities, and making vulgar gestures at us and our property on almost a daily basis,” Salahub said. Those incidents motivated the Salahubs to ask both the North Cornwall Township supervisors and Lebanon County Commissioners to pass a resolution against hate, racism and violent crime.

They did. More: Racism in Pa.: Hate incidents up against Asian Americans, but it’s not a new problem More: Lebanon Mayor Capello hosts Zoom call to talk about policing and minority communities

More: Dr. Rachel Levine faces transphobia in historic U.S. Senate confirmation hearing

The FBI website defines a hate crime as a “a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”  Salahub said hate crimes must be denounced by residents and elected officials.  “We are especially concerned about the safety and well-being of our fellow community members who have been burdened for so long by racism and bigotry and fear of violence,” he read in a statement to the county commissioners Thursday. “Common sense and common decency dictate that mutual sense and acceptance must prevail to live, work and thrive together.” 

Ellie Salahub referenced a recent story by the Lebanon Daily News on the increase in hate incidents against Asian Americans, remarking on Joseph Romanoff’s story about racism as a Lebanon resident.  “Racism has no limits,” she said. “People who hate can find anyone to direct that towards.” Both the Lebanon County Commissioners and the North Cornwall supervisors unanimously passed the resolution this week.

Ellie Salahub said now the next step is to look at programs to prevent hate crimes.  Resident Ann Hopple told the county commissioners she hoped passing the resolution would heighten their awareness to “the hate that exists in our county.”  “I want to ensure my children that we live in a community that looks out for all citizens, and I believe that should be universal,” she said. 

The Nov.

16 incident at the Salahub home is still under investigation, though the Salahubs and other residents are looking to have it listed as a hate crime. 

Matthew Toth is a reporter for the Lebanon Daily News.

Reach him at mtoth@ldnews.com or on Twitter at @DAMattToth.