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About 100 gather to protest racist graffiti found at Hull fort

Rabbi David Grossman addressed the crowd as the Rev. David Weekley (left) stood alongside.
Rabbi David Grossman addressed the crowd as the Rev. David Weekley (left) stood alongside.Sarah Wu for The Boston Globe

HULL — About 100 residents from Hull and neighboring towns gathered Thursday morning by the bunkers at historic Fort Revere to decry the actions of the vandal, or vandals, who defaced the fort over the weekend with anti-Semitic and white supremacist graffiti.

“These actions that took place do not define us,” State Senator Patrick M. O’Connor told the crowd. “They’re happening far too often across the country. It’s really unfortunate that we have to gather here today to push back and to absolutely say no to actions like that.”

Rev. David Weekley of St. Nicholas United Methodist Church said the graffiti, which included a large spray-painted swastika, flew in the face of the town’s shared values of liberty and human dignity.

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“Today, we’re gathered here as a community supporting each other because these values have been violated and mocked by a symbol of oppression, of hatred, of gross inhumanity,” he said. “This may be one of the most important times we all stand together affirming the ideals and values of who we are as people.”

Rabbi David Grossman of Temple Beth Sholom, who was one of the event’s organizers, noted the historic significance of the site in leading a prayer, in Hebrew and English, for the soldiers who are buried at Fort Revere.

“This act was against more than just the community, but the memory of those who died,” he said.

Fort Revere includes the remains of two seacoast fortifications and a burial ground for French soldiers who died fighting during the American Revolution.

It was built during the Revolution and manned during both World War I and World War II, according to the Fort Revere Park and Preservation Society.

“This is the testimony of all the patriotic actions of courageous people from the end of the Revolution to the Second World War,” said Fulvia Matteucci, a member of the Hull Historical Commission. “Usually, we think about places being important because there was a bloody battle, but this fort has been important in preventing any battles and we should honor that.”

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Matteucci said the commission has applied for funding for gates to restrict entrance into the bunkers. The concrete walls are filled with a variety of graffiti beyond the 20 hate-filled messages spray-painted last weekend.

Jennifer Whelan, 51, a resident who grew up in the town, said the vandalism came as a “shock” in a loving and welcoming community.

“It feels like more and more of this is happening. It’s scary as a Jewish person and as someone who has Jewish children,” she said. “We’ve come too far for this. We’re not learning from our past.”

Whelan noted her husband is Catholic. “We celebrate both religions in our family and we want there to be harmony,” she said.

Grossman was installed last month as the first full-time rabbi in decades at the temple, in what congregants said demonstrated a strengthening of the town’s Jewish community.

Gisela Voss, 55, said she came to the gathering in support of her friend Whelan.

“If it can happen in Hull — in this teeny tiny, close-knit peninsula — it can happen anywhere,” Voss said. “There’s too much hatred of ‘the other’ happening right now.”

Rhoda Kanet, 73, a long-time Hull resident, was one of the founders of the Hull is No Place for Hate group, which was founded in 2002.

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Kanet said that perpetrators of hate would always exist, but she hoped that communication across political divides and education would help build bridges.

“When you see a gathering like this, it renews your faith. When you do it to one of us, you do it to all of us,” Kanet said, recalling that every time something like this happens in Hull, however rare, residents do not accept the intolerance. “It’s not being brushed under the rug.”

D.J. Simon, a 22-year-old resident who grew up in Hull, said he was “sickened” by the news. “It rocks us to our core because that’s not who we are.”

Simon said he was amazed by how many cars lined both sides of the sloping road leading up to Fort Revere, one of his favorite places.

“When the going gets tough, Hull shows up,” he said.

Hull police are actively investigating the incident. So far they have no suspects.

“The desecration of this historic monument will not be tolerated and to see that the graffiti was anti-Semitic and racist is especially disturbing,” Chief John Dunn said in a statement.

“This is not something that will be written off as ‘kids being kids.’ There is no place for hate in our society. These kinds of messages instill fear in members of our community,” Dunn said.

“That act was not committed in the full broad daylight,” said Rabbi Grossman. “The act of response of love is done in full view on this beautiful day.”

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Sarah Wu can be reached at sarah.wu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sarah_wu_.