SALEM – The mayor and police chief have decried yet another anti-Semitic incident in the city, where someone placed a large sticker with a swastika and threatening language on a fire alarm box on Essex Street between the library and downtown. The incident was reported to the city on Tuesday morning, May 25.
“The Salem Police Department takes this incident very seriously and is conducting a robust investigation to determine who is responsible,” the joint statement said.
Those with information about this act or who noticed suspicious activity in the area within the past day are asked to call Salem police at 978-744-1212.
Police are asking that if members of the public find offensive or dangerous graffiti, including stickers, to contact police right away, and not to remove it until police can document it. The police or public works will remove the offense material after it has been documented.
“The City strongly condemns this heinous act,’ said Mayor Kim Driscoll and police Chief Lucas Miller, in a joint statement “This incident is evidence that no community, even one as welcoming as Salem, is immune from hatred. We must remain ever vigilant in denouncing these acts and in supporting efforts to combat bigotry and hatred. In Salem, we strive to be an inclusive community and to educate and advocate with others to this important goal. We must be tireless in our efforts to bridge our differences and continue to support each other within the diverse community that we are all fortunate enough to call home.”
Salem’s new police Lucas Miller said the sticker looked more like a flyer or bill posted to the fire alarm box and was about half the size of a sheet of paper. The sticker was white with a swastika in the center with the phrase “We are everywhere” above and below the insignia. There were no other markings on the poste that identified any groups or websites. Miller said he is familiar with combating antisemitism as his most recent role was as a detective lieutenant with the New York City Police Department where he served as task force manager for the department’s NYPD FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, according to a press release on the city’s website.
Miller said police were looking to see if there were any witnesses or video of the incident. He said the resident who found it removed it before police arrived, but he does not fault them for doing that as a natural reaction to seeing it. Police do have a photo of the sticker. He said tackling such crimes is a priority of Salem police and the city.
The discovery of this sticker in Salem comes one day after the Anti-Defamation League reported that “Since the conflict in the Mideast erupted on May 10, anti-Semitic incidents reported to the ADL in the U.S. increased by 63%, according to preliminary data from the ADL’s Center on Extremism. It’s on all of us to use our voices to call out #antisemitism.”
On May 14, The Salem News reported school officials were investigating a report of a small swastika found drawn in pencil in a bathroom at Salem High earlier in that week. School officials were sharing this incident as a way to combat and learn from it. The school’s superintendent, Steve Zrike, said during a Facebook Live event there was no way to tell how long the swastika had been there, The Salem News said.
A Salem High School statement, provided by the mayor’s office, dated May 12 from Principal Samantha Meier said the swastika was found in one of the boy’s bathrooms. Meier said she was dismayed by the incident.
“Police have been notified, the swastika has been recorded and removed, and the incident has been reported to the Salem Police Department and is under school investigation,” the statement said.
“The swastika symbolizes hate and anti-Semitism and there is no place for these types of hateful actions or behaviors in our schools or in the greater Salem community,” the statement said. “As a school district, we have publicly messaged that we are an anti-racist and inclusive organization that is in accepting of all the young people we serve. We actively condemn discriminatory acts that target and marginalize specific groups of people in our community.”
Salem has seen incidents of slap tagging of hate stickers in recent months, including the targeting of Pride Flag decals on the window of a vegan bakery on Church Street in January and February by a group called Patriot Front, which the ADL says is a white supremacist group that espouses racism and antisemitism.
In March, Salem police said the city had seen a half dozen “slap tag” incidents as of Jan. 1. Last year, a white supremacist group known as NSC-131 was also slap tagging downtown and on Salem Common. Similar stickers have also cropped up in Peabody in the area of Wilson Square and on Gardner Street. Beverly also denounced the discovery of hate stickers, flyers and other symbols cropping up in town, along with stop signs being vandalized with messages of hate and the theft of Black Lives Matter signs from personal property.
Marblehead has seen several recent graffiti incidents, including back in March when racist language was spray painted on a mural under the Village Street bridge and a swastika was found formed out of some sticky substance stuck to a pole near the tennis courts at the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore. Marblehead police reported three separate incidents of hate speech graffiti being found over the weekend of May 1-2, including under the Village Street bridge, on the boardwalk of the Ware Pond conservation area and at Crocker Park on Front Street.
A police report said that the lettering of the graffiti found at Crocker Park matched that of the antisemitic graffiti found under the Village Street bridge the day before. A police report also said the graffiti found at Ware Pond on May 1 mirrors hate messages found on the boardwalk on Sept. 2, 2020, at the same time similar hate speech was found scrawled on the rocks at Preston Beach, which is located on the Swampscott/Marblehead line.