Local Crime, News, Police/Fire

Graffiti painted outside Swampscott Police Department

Graffiti reading "Free Shimmy" is painted on the street in front of the Swapscott Police Headquarters. (Julia Hopkins)

SWAMPSCOTT — Protesters in support of a Black Lives Matter activist who was arrested in December left graffiti outside the Swampscott Police Department this weekend. 

The graffiti reads “Free Shimmy,” the nickname of Ernst Jean-Jacques, who is charged with assaulting 80-year-old Trump supporter Linda Greenberg at a counterprotest. 

Since January, protesters have gathered outside the police station every Sunday to ask that charges be dropped against Jean-Jacques.

A spokesman for the SPD said that this is not the first time the station has been vandalized. The first messages were written in chalk, but after a protest on Feb. 14 protesters used spray paint to write “Free Shimmy” on barricades and the ground outside the station, which required power washing by the Department of Public Works to remove. 

The new graffiti left on Sunday was also spray painted. Several smaller versions of the message were left using a stencil, while a larger version, approximately 10 feet long, was painted in front of the station. 

Charges are pending related to the Feb. 14 incident, while the more recent graffiti is currently under investigation. Police are trying to identify suspects based on videos of the protests.

Jean-Jacques’ arrest occurred after a Dec. 12 protest organized by conservative radio host Dianna Ploss in support of then-President Donald Trump. In videos of the incident, Greenberg throws water on Jean-Jacques from a plastic bottle. Police allege that he then punched Greenberg in retaliation, although Jean-Jacques maintains that he simply moved to grab the bottle. 

Video from the scene is partially obstructed by other protesters, leaving it unclear what happened after the water was thrown, although slow-motion footage by another protester appears to show Jean-Jacques swatting downward with an open hand.

An independent investigation into the arrest was launched Jan. 7.

“After watching several videos related to the arrest of Mr. Jacques, I am concerned there may have been opportunities to handle this incident more constructively,” said Swampscott Police Chief Ronald Madigan when the investigation was announced. “This independent, internal investigation will help provide an objective and thorough review of how (the) Swampscott Police Department handled this incident.”

Swampscott Select Board members Peter Spellios and Polly Titcomb sent a letter in January to Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett asking for the charges to be dropped. 

“Failure to dismiss the charges against (Mr. Jean-Jacques) will further compromise the public’s confidence in our legal system and in the important service that police departments provide in our community and throughout the Commonwealth,” the letter read.

A pre-trial hearing for Jean-Jacques is scheduled for Wednesday in Lynn District Court. 

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