Community responds to latest incident of swastika vandalism

Marconi: I’d like to catch the individual involved myself

Scrub marks on the front door of the Masonic Lodge on Main Street show where a hand-drawn swastika was removed. Police say the investigation is ongoing. — Peter Yankowski photo

Town leaders and members of the community were quick to condemn the latest act of anti-semitic vandalism, which struck Main Street this past week.

Ridgefield police are investigating five swastikas that were drawn on doors and signs at both the Aldrich Museum and Masonic Lodge between Sunday, Jan. 7, and Tuesday, Jan. 9. 

Richard Klein, co-director at the Aldrich, said staff and trustees of the museum were “saddened and disappointed by this hateful act, particularly in light of the upcoming Martin Luther King holiday.”

“The repeated incidents of racist graffiti in Ridgefield are extremely troubling. These odious acts help remind us that eternal vigilance is truly the price of liberty and that every day our values as Americans need to nurtured and reinforced,” Klein added.

Klein said the Aldrich would continue to confront issues of intolerance, racism, and anti-semitism in its programming for the public.

“We have, and we will continue to present public programming that deals with these issues, which go beyond racism and antisemitism to broader issues about tolerance and education in society.”

First Selectman

First Selectman Rudy Marconi likewise condemned the act in strong terms.

“I’d like to catch the individual involved myself, I feel so strongly about this,” Marconi said in a phone conversation with The Press Wednesday. 

Marconi said he suspects the person involved is likely a juvenile, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if the same person is responsible for the incidents of racist graffiti found in Ballard Park.

“The individual should be concerned because we do have cameras, and we will be reviewing them,” Marconi said. “They would be much smarter coming forward and admitting to this act, and taking responsibility, then waiting for an investigation to be concluded.”

“The individual would certainly have my respect for coming forward and admitting they made a mistake — we all make them,” he added.

Marconi suggested the incident is one in which the town might make use of a juvenile review board, which it does not currently have.

“We’re not there yet,” he told The Press.

At the discretion of the town’s police department, a juvenile review board could assign an alternative punishment for a first-time offender, such as community service combined with counseling to try to get to the core of what is causing the youth to act out, Marconi explained.

Such programs have a high rate of success, with around 90% of youths who go through the program avoiding further trouble with the law, he added

Rabbi Reiner

Rabbi David Reiner, of Congregation Shir Shalom, said that he remained “frustrated and disappointed” after each incident of racist or anti-semitic vandalism.   

“The Ridgefield Police Department has assured me that there is no cause for alarm and I believe that they are taking these incidents seriously, are conducting a thorough investigation, and are eager to prosecute the person (or people) responsible,” Rabbi Reiner said in a statement emailed to members of the congregation.

“Even if the person/people responsible for these swastikas are apprehended, sadly, this will probably not be the last incident of ignorance or bigotry in our community,” he added.

“Nevertheless, I will not let the darkness or hatred or ignorance of others limit my life or dreams.”

Police

Capt. Jeff Kreitz of the Ridgefield Police Department said the cops believe all five swastikas were drawn by the same perpetrator, as a green marker was used in both locations. He added that the anti-Semitic symbols ranged in size from approximately 4 by 4 inches to 8 by 8 inches.

According to a report, a passerby reported seeing a swastika drawn on the door of the Aldrich museum on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 7. Two swastikas were also found on the sign in the museum’s exit and entrance, Kreitz said. Those swastikas were later removed by one of the department’s officers.

Kreitz said they received a second report of a swastika, drawn on the door of the Masonic Lodge, around noon on Tuesday, Jan. 9. Another swastika was also found on the lodge’s sign at the entrance. He said he was unsure who removed the graffiti at the lodge.

Symbols of hate and racist words were found at Ridgefield High School and in Ballard Park several times in 2017, and twice in 2016, which caused town leadership to host a tolerance workshop with members of the Anti-Defamation League in December.

Kreitz asked that residents with any information call Officer Anthony McMahon at 203-438

 

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