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Stanford campus, Palo Alto vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti

Several buildings and street signs on Stanford campus and in Palo Alto were vandalized with swastika-like graffiti some time during the University’s winter break closure. Stanford’s Department of Public Safety (SUDPS) is currently investigating the vandalisms — 11 instances in total.

Bill Larson, public information officer for SUDPS, said there are no suspects as of Thursday. Campus police are working with Palo Alto police to investigate.

According to Palo Alto police agent Ryan Brennan, the Palo Alto Police Department received four reports of vandalism from Dec. 29 to 31. Meanwhile, Larson says Stanford police were notified of graffiti at five different locations on campus on Dec. 30 and 31.

Some of the graffiti featured symbols most likely meant to be swastikas but drawn incorrectly with arms facing the wrong direction. However, because some of the symbols were also paired with the message “No Jews allowed,” police believe the vandals had intended to draw the anti-Semitic sign, Brennan told the Mercury News.

Larson said graffiti was drawn on a pillar at the Main Quad at 450 Serra Mall, a sign in Rodin Sculpture Gardens at 300 Lomita Drive, a sign on the 800 block of Campus Drive, a sign on Campus Drive and Escondido Road, a sign on the 800 block of Bowdoin Street, the Graduate School of Education and the Clock Tower. 

Palo Alto police received reports of vandalism on two street signs on Stanford Ave and Bowdoin Street as well as on the exterior of a grocery store on the 700 block of Emerson Street and on a utility box on the 500 block of Page Mill Road.

This is not the first time that Stanford property has been vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti. In April of 2015, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity house was tagged with swastikas. The incident was one of the two cases of hate violence reported on campus in 2015. However, according to Larson, investigators have yet to establish a connection between the recent vandalisms and any prior incidents.

While the vandal or vandals’ motivations remain unclear, members of the Stanford community remain troubled by the implications of the incidents.

“Anti-Semitic incidents have significantly increased in past years,” said Rabbi Serena Eisenberg, executive director of campus Jewish group Hillel@Stanford, by email. “In the past months alone, there has been such a deeply troubling rise in hate crimes around the country and here in our community, including anti-Semitic imagery on social media, the targeting of Jewish journalists, and numerous reports of swastika vandalism.”

If apprehended, the vandals face charges for defacing property and possibly a hate-related crime, if police are able to establish the motive.

In December, the Palo Alto City Council passed a resolution reaffirming the city’s intent to maintain a “diverse, supportive, inclusive and protective” community. In the face of these recent incidents, Eisenberg similarly urged the Stanford community to come together.

“Our Stanford community needs to call out these expressions of hatred,” she said. “We must educate ourselves and one another about all forms of discrimination, whether subtle or overt, and stand in solidarity and courage with other communities facing bigotry in the face of these vile attacks.”

Anyone with information about the incidents can call Palo Alto’s 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to paloalto ‘at’ tipnow.org or sent by text or voice mail to 650-383-8984.

Contact Cindy Kuang at ckuang ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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