MEDFORD — Anti-Semitic and other hate speech and symbols spray-painted on public schools, playgrounds, and businesses in south Medford have stunned local officials, who vow to mount a vigorous investigation into who desecrated the city on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“To think they would be that brazen, to travel wherever they want, to destroy whatever they want,” Mayor Michael J. McGlynn said Monday. “It’s unconscionable.”
Swastikas, a shamrock, and references to the Aryan nation were painted on more than two dozen locations, including street signs and athletic fields at Tufts University, overnight on Saturday into Sunday, officials said.
McGlynn said he thinks the attack was planned to coincide with the annual commemoration of the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews.
“I think it’s too much of a coincidence that it would happen on a day when so many remembrance services were going on,” he said.
Police Chief Leo A. Sacco Jr. said police are investigating the incident under the state’s hate crime law.
McGlynn and Sacco gathered a group of Medford civic and religious leaders Monday at Columbus Elementary School on Hicks Avenue, one of the targets, to denounce messages found at more than two dozen locations in the city. “Today, we again say with one voice that these hateful messages will not be tolerated in our community,” McGlynn said.
Rabbi Braham David of Temple Shalom in Medford echoed McGlynn’s sentiments, calling it tragic that officials were gathered on the remembrance day, which Jews commemorated as Yom Hashoah from sundown Sunday to sundown Monday.
“We have tolerance for everyone, but we do not have tolerance for anti-Semitism, for bigotry, for homophobia, and for hatred in general,” David said, “There is no tolerance amongst us for this.”
The rampage angered Medford business owners and residents.
“Our delivery truck got hit,” said Maria Barros, owner of Italo’s Bakery, standing inside the shop on Main Street. “My husband just spray-painted right over it.”
Barros said she thinks the graffiti was probably the work “of some kids, who don’t know any better.”
“But they don’t realize that it hurts people,” she added. “It costs money to clean up, and it does not easily come off.”
Bonnie Carriger, 29, discovered a swastika and other symbols at Tufts Park, a public playground on Main Street, where she brought her 4-month-old daughter, Samantha, for a morning stroll.
“It shouldn’t be anywhere, but especially not in a kids park,” said Carriger, who said she grew up in Medford. “Kids don’t know what these symbols mean. . . . I know they’ll find whoever did this.”
Much of the graffiti has been removed by city work crews. On Tuesday, a group of inmates and correction officers will use a graffiti-cleaning machine owned by the Middlesex Sheriff’s Department to remove the rest, officials said.
“This is truly a human rights crime,” Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian said at the press conference.
At Tufts University, swastikas and white supremacist slogans found Sunday on signs and structures at Bello Field on College Avenue were quickly removed, the university said.
Campus police are working with Medford police to investigate the graffiti, Tufts president Anthony P. Monaco wrote in an e-mail distributed to the university Monday night. “The sentiments reflected in the graffiti are profoundly at odds with the values of Tufts University,” Monaco wrote.
Sacco said his department is also working with area law enforcement agencies, including Boston police, to identify the perpetrators.
“Someone out there knows who did this, and who had the mind-set to do this,” Sacco said Monday. “We’ll have to turn up the heat.”
In a statement Monday, the Anti-Defamation League also pledged to work with law enforcement on the investigation.
“It is critical that society send a message back to those who seek to provoke hostility by combining our efforts to fight hate and bigotry and ensure that those responsible are prosecuted,” said Robert Trestan, acting New England regional director for ADL.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Medford police at 781-395-1212 or 781-391-6404.