By Breana Pitts

NEWBURYPORT (CBS) – A campaign banner was slashed in the front yard of a man running for Mayor of Newburyport. He says it could be vandalism based on politics, or a crime based on his religion and ethnicity.

Dr. Hazem Mahmoud says the authorities haven’t investigated other incidents he considers hate crimes. Dr. Mahmoud is an American citizen, but he’s also Muslim, originally from Egypt.

He’s making serious accusations against the current Mayor and Police Chief, both of whom say his charges are false.

“It was very clear that it was done by a sharp instrument,” says Dr. Mahmoud, showing WBZ-TV a vandalized 8-foot banner in front of his house, promoting his run for mayor of Newburyport.

mahmoud1 Newburyport Mayoral Candidates Sign Slashed In Front Yard

Dr. Hazem Mahmoud stands in front of a vandalized sign (WBZ-TV)

The banner shows a sharp cut from one corner, across the middle of the banner. “This person who did this is really sad, because it’s really pitiful,” says Mahmoud.

Though he is a Muslim of Egyptian heritage, Mahmoud is not saying this is a hate crime. “It’s very difficult to say if this is personal, or this is prejudice, like we’ve seen before,” he says.

What he is saying is that he has been targeted in the past because of his religion and ethnicity. “Somebody in a black truck, on the passenger side, opened and said, ‘go back to your country.’ A couple of weeks before, while I was mowing, said ‘f-ing this, f-ing that,’ you know, like bad language,” he says.

He claims there have been other incidents as well, and that Newburyport Police haven’t thoroughly investigated them. He also blames the current mayor, Donna Holaday. “Some of these, which are criminal, have been obstructed or blocked by the Mayor’s office and the Marshal of the city of Newburyport,” Mahmoud says.

Both the Mayor and the City Marshal say that never happened, that any reported crimes are investigated and that all Newburyport residents are treated equally. In a statement City Marshal Mark Murray says: “The vandalism of a political campaign sign is a cowardly act that goes against the spirit of free speech in the American election system. We take this act very seriously.”

These allegations could now become an issue in the city’s three way mayoral race. A preliminary election is scheduled for September, with the top two vote getters moving on to the November election.

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