HARDWICK —A family who had supported Barack Obama's presidential campaign emerged from their home in the northwestern New Jersey town of Hardwick on Thursday morning to find the charred remnants of a 6-foot wooden cross on their front lawn.
Pieces of a homemade bedsheet banner reading "President Obama -- Victory '08," which had been stolen from the yard the night before, also were found, leading investigators to believe the banner had been wrapped around the cross before it was set afire.
Lt. Gerald Lewis of the New Jersey State Police said his agency is treating the incident as a bias crime.
Police believe the cross, made of two-by-fours bolted to a metal pole like those used to support road signs, was placed on the lawn sometime between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m., and fell over after being set on fire.
Homeowner Gary Grewal said he had noticed the Obama banner missing from his lawn the night before and reported it to police.
Grewal said his 8-year-old daughter, Arianna, spotted the banner wrapped around the burnt cross as they walked toward their car to drive to school.
"She saw it, that's what bothered me the most," Grewal said Thursday. "You can imagine the types of questions she was asking. It was very tough to explain."
Grewal, 51, a management consultant who emigrated from India, has lived in Hardwick Township, a largely rural community of about 1,500 people in Warren County, about 40 miles northwest of Newark, since 2001.
He said Obama campaign signs were regularly swiped off his lawn. He and his wife, Alina, actively supported the Obama campaign in the largely Republican area.
"I'm not going to be intimidated by something like this," Grewal said. "I don't go on anyone's property and do this. God forbid if I was African-American. We're living in the 21st century, and we've got to be afraid to express our beliefs?"
Grewal described his community as a nice place "with many wonderful people." But he said his daughter is afraid to sleep in her room, knowing someone was on the lawn while they were home.
"I'm amazed this can happen in this time and age," Alina Grewal said. "We're in the Millennium, the world has changed."
I'll let you all know right now that I did not vote for Obama. However, I can't believe that in this day and age, some are STILL resorting to cross burning.
Now is not the time to be angry over the election results. We need to pull together as a country and support our President Elect, whether or not you voted for him.
This racist bullshit needs to stop. NOW! I am disgusted to admit that I am from NJ, close to where this happened.