A Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was found vandalized with messages supporting President Donald Trump on Monday, just hours ahead of his planned rally there and one day before the election.
The Anti-Defamation League’s Michigan branch tweeted photos of desecrated gravestones at the 100-year-old cemetery. According to Grand Rapids police, six headstones were tagged in red paint with the messages “TRUMP” and “MAGA” ― the latter an abbreviation for Trump’s 2016 “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
The cemetery belongs to Congregation Ahavas Israel, a synagogue that practices Conservative Judaism. The photos obtained by ADL Michigan were taken by the congregation’s cemetery chairperson, Ed Miller, who gave permission to use them.
Police told HuffPost that the vandalism was discovered Monday morning, though it’s not clear when it actually occurred. There is currently no suspect information, according to police.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
ADL Michigan said the organization was “appalled” by the vandalism and that it was in communication with the Jewish community and law enforcement to investigate it. The group’s regional director, Carolyn Normandin, cautioned that it is too early to call the incident an act of anti-Semitism. She noted that information such as a suspect’s social media footprint could change that.
“The bar for a hate crime is very high,” Normandin said. However, she called the vandalism “a violent, disgusting act” and a crime “in a Jewish cemetery.”
Temple Emanuel, Grand Rapids’ Reform synagogue, was vandalized with neo-Nazi posters about a year ago.
The Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus was alerted of the vandalism early Monday morning by a caucus member who discovered it, founder and chair Noah Arbit told HuffPost. Arbit said that the desecration of Jewish gravestones “is evocative of the febrile political atmosphere our country finds itself in right now.”
“Make no mistake, this heinous act was committed on the eve of the 2020 election to send an intimidating message to the president’s opponents, and particularly, Jewish voters. But it has failed,” the caucus said in a statement.
“Grand Rapids’ Jewish community will not be cowed by this vile attack on Ahavas Israel,” it continued. “Instead, Jews in Grand Rapids, the State of Michigan, and across the country will head to the polls tomorrow to vote against this president and the hatred, violence and antisemitism he so callously incites.”
Rep. Justin Amash, the Republican-turned-Libertarian who represents Grand Rapids in Congress, tweeted in support of the city’s Jewish community following reports of the incident.
“We stand united with our Jewish friends and neighbors against this disgusting act of vandalism, desecration, and hate toward our fellow human beings,” Amash tweeted. “Anti-Semitism must find no home in our community.”
Federal officials have voiced concerns about voter intimidation, particularly by extremist groups and particularly in battleground states like Michigan. A judge blocked the Michigan secretary of state’s rule banning the open carrying of guns at polling places last week. And federal investigators foiled a right-wing plot to kidnap Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over her efforts to implement safety precautions amid rising COVID-19 cases.
Whitmer has directly blamed Trump for the rise in extremism, saying that she and the president’s other political opponents receive threats every time he attacks them. Trump has repeated his attacks against Whitmer regardless.
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