Campaign signs vandalized with swastikas

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

Monsey – Ramapo police are searching for the party or parties responsible for three acts of vandalism in Monsey where campaign signs for incumbent Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and County Executive candidate David Fried were defaced with swastikas. The symbols were put up on signs at three separate intersections along Route 306 with orange spraypaint. Though no suspects have been identified, the incidents themselves are thought to have occurred at around 12 a.m.

Since the discovery of the swastikas, police have been canvassing the surrounding area for witnesses or video recordings of the incident. However no leads have been identified in the case. The use of the swastika, the infamous symbol of the Nazi’s extermination of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, is a particularly sensitive issue in Monsey, a predominantly Orthodox Jewish village.

“These are acts of cowardice and hatred that cannot be tolerated in a civilized society,” Democratic Chairwoman Kristen Stavisky said. “Those responsible should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Though Stavisky has pushed for the incidents to be investigated and prosecuted as hate crimes, the only charges being pursued by police at the present time are three counts of criminal mischief. According to Ramapo Sergeant John Lynch, the incident could have been anything from hate speech to a prank.

Lynch explained the only way to charge a person under the state’s hate crime statute is to show a suspect acted due to religious prejudice, usually through a confession. Hence, even offensive pranks might not be considered hate crimes. “We’ve had several instances over the year of Jewish people spray painting the swastika,” Lynch said.

St. Lawrence’s Republican opponent Michael Koplen maintained that though their origin is still unknown, the symbols might be a tactic used by his opposition to scare supporters into polling booths. “We don’t know who put the swastikas on the signs, or why,” Koplen said. “It could be hate speech or it could be a cynical attempt to create fear and drive votes for the candidates whose signs were defaced.”

Koplen is referring to the expectation that St. Lawrence and Fried will receive the bulk of the religious bloc vote, a critical asset which often sways local elections in Rockland.

The vandalism is not the first instance of a possible anti-Semitic crime in Ramapo in recent months. In August, Shashi Ramsaroop, Lindsey Peaks and Demetrius Latrell were charged with a hate crime for attacking a Hasidic Jew with a paintball gun as they drove through the Village of Kaser.

According to a press release from the Rockland County Democratic Committee, about 1,000 instances of campaign sign theft and vandalism had been reported prior to the swastika incident, but this is the first instance when anti-Semitic symbols had been used.