FALL RIVER – Police are investigating the desecration of at least 59 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery last weekend.
Fall River Police Sergeant J. T. Hoar said police were called to the Hebrew Cemetery on McMahon Street last Sunday after a neighbor had seen a suspicious vehicle parked in the cemetery on two separate occasions. After an investigation, police determined that the vehicle was not related to the crimes committed. The discovery of the damage was initially reported by a cemetery maintenance worker.
Hoar said at least two gravestones were knocked over, and police also found swastikas and anti-Semitic phrases on the tombstones. Police also discovered a reference to President Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” written in black magic marker. The phrases included “Heil Hitler,” “Kike Jew Pig,” “Expel the Jew,” “Hitler was right,” and “Oy Vey! This is MAGA country.” In addition, at least two gravestones were defaced with the slogan “Day of the Rope,” a reference to the white supremacist novel, “The Turner Diaries.”
“We want to get ahead of this and want to find out who would be responsible for this egregious activity,” said Hoar. The investigation is being led by Fall River’s Major Crimes Division Sergeant Tom Mauretti, and Detective Moses Pereira. “A full canvas of the cemetery is being conducted to identify all areas of vandalism and calculate a more accurate number.”
In a statement, Anti-Defamation League New England Regional Director Robert Trestan denounced the hate crime. The ADL and Temple Beth El of Fall River have offered a $1,500 reward for any information leading to an arrest in the case. “The desecration of The Hebrew Cemetery of Fall River is an inexcusable act of anti-Semitic hatred in the place where we honor and remember the lives of our community members,” said Trestan. “We are grateful for the priority that this apparent hate crime is being given by the Fall River Police Department.”
Laurence K. Richmond, president of the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts, denounced the desecration. “In accordance with our mission, we stand by the Fall River Jewish Community and view this recent incident as another reminder that we all need to be vigilant and proactive in fighting hate,” said Richmond.