City of Sonora Public Works staff cleaned graffiti from a retaining wall Monday morning that included a symbol co-opted by the anti-Semitic Nazi regime in Germany after World War I.
Someone called the Sonora Police Department about 10 a.m. Sunday to report the symbol drawn in black spray paint on the concrete wall along Mono Way between Hospital and Sanguinetti roads.
“The officer that responded checked to see if there were any surveillance cameras or workable leads,” said Sonora Police Lt. Turu Vanderwiel. “Once he determined there wasn’t much he could with the case at this point, he documented a report and called public works to cover up the vandalism.”
Bill Seldon, the city’s public works supervisor, said he received a message about the crime from Sonora police upon arriving for work Monday morning and immediately sent someone to clean it up.
The vandal, or vandals, also spray painted some incomprehensible words in addition to the Nazi swastika.
A swastika is an ancient religious symbol originating from the Indian subcontinent more than 10,000 years ago. It has become socially stigmatized by its modern association with the Nazis, who orchestrated the systematic murder of more than six million Jews during World War II.
Vanderwiel said he can’t say if the vandalism was aimed at a specific group or individual because it occurred on city property.
The graffiti’s anti-Semitic symbolism may be particularly alarming to some considering the recent spate of vandalisms and bomb threats reported at Jewish cemeteries and community centers across the U.S. following the election of President Donald Trump.
Trump received endorsements during the campaign from notable anti-Jewish groups and leaders, like the “alt-right” and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Muslim activists have raised over $130,000 to help with repairing over 100 headstones that were toppled and damaged by a vandal or vandals last week at a Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis.
According to the New York Times, the activists plan to raise more money for another Jewish cemetery that was reportedly vandalized near Philadelphia on Sunday.
Although graffiti isn’t a particularly prevalent problem in Sonora, Vanderwiel said the city tries to clean it up as quickly as possible to prevent more from popping up.
“Vandalism adds to the perception of blight,” Vanderwiel said. “A little bit leads to more and more, and then it becomes normal and somewhat accepted, and we don’t allow that here.
Sonora police investigated a suspected hate crime in December against a white city councilman who is dating a black woman. The couple woke up to find lewd, racist graffiti spray painted prominently in the street outside their home.
Despite the recent events, Vanderwiel said that his department isn’t aware of any organized white-supremacy groups operating in the area. Such groups have gained more mainstream attention since the election under the guise of the “alt-right” movement.
“Naturally, there are people from all walks of life that you run into on occasion, but we don’t really have any of that up here on a group level,” Vanderwiel said. “It’s not like a known element we have to monitor, but we always watch for that kind of activity.”