Jordan Avery was at a loss for words Monday when he walked into his rented storefront and found it vandalized with anti-Semitic language and racist symbolism.
The place was a mess, Avery said. The floor was littered with an unknown white powder, and empty bottles of alcohol were lined up on the ground.
But even worse was the rope hanging from the ceiling, tied in a knot resembling a noose. A long knife hung from the rope, and anti-Semitic rhetoric was written on the walls: “[Expletive] the Jews” and “Jesus Failed.”
“I was speechless,” he said. “I was in there for less than a minute. I was so upset; I didn’t want to keep looking around.” Avery, who was born and raised in Lynn, is African-American and has plans to convert to Judaism.
Lynn police are investigating the vandalism, but no arrests have been made, said Lieutenant Michael Kmiec, adding that the incident is uncommon for the city.
“We’ve had nothing of this sort, anything like this, recently,” he said.
Avery was notified by the building owner Monday that the space he hopes will eventually house his marijuana business had been broken into and damaged.
It’s not the first time Avery, CEO of Massachusetts Green Retail, has faced an obstacle to his proposed business. Avery’s business has been caught in the crossfire of a legal battle about the location of his proposed recreational marijuana shop.
The Boston Street building is on the border of Lynn and Saugus, the latter of which has banned recreational marijuana shops. Saugus officials sued Avery’s business and the Lynn City Council in April, claiming that the building is 10 inches over the town line. As a result, Saugus has asked the state Land Court to invalidate the special permit Lynn granted the company to open a pot shop there.
Avery’s attorney has filed a motion to dismiss the case, which Lynn officials say they are backing. A hearing on the case is expected to be held in August.
Avery thinks the recent vandalism might be connected to the pushback he’s received, which has included several threatening phone calls.
“After seeing what I saw, this is not just someone that just wanted to go into a building,” he said. “This is a message, and I’m not going to let this message stop me.”
Julius Sokol, the owner of the building, said he and his business partner are also Jewish, and he was disappointed to see the pointed language.
“I condemn this type of hate, and there’s no place for it on the North Shore, or anywhere for that matter,” he said.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, 2018 saw the second-highest number of anti-Semitic incidents on record in Massachusetts. Fifty-eight Massachusetts municipalities reported an incident of anti-Semitism last year; the majority of reported incidents were vandalism.
Regardless of whether the vandalism is directly connected to recent antimarijuana sentiment he’s faced, Avery says he won’t be deterred.
“They’re using these tactics to try to scare me and stop me from doing what the state, advocates, and local people want, and it’s really frustrating,” he said. “This will not stop me from doing what the voters and people want in this state.”