Police investigate possible hate crimes by vandals

| November 30, 2009

Upper Keys police are investigating a possible hate crime after the Keys Jewish Community Center’s sign in Tavernier was defaced for the second time in two weeks.

Vandals apparently used black permanent marker to repeatedly write “SOS,” which police and synagogue members said likely stands for “save our souls,” across the north-facing side of the sign along U.S. 1.

The only other phrase written was a “And he was the king of the Jews. Belive (sic) that one.”

The graffiti reportedly occurred Sunday night, at which time the south-facing side of the sign was being cleaned of similar graffiti that was written the prior Sunday, Nov. 15.

Police reports state the markings including “SOS” and the phrase “make love not war.”

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Dep. Becky Herrin said investigators haven’t yet determined if the messages were overtly anti-Semitic and therefore a hate crime.

“We have done some research and will most likely ask our crime analyst to look at it a little more in depth. As of now, it has not officially been classified as a hate crime,” Herrin said. “We certainly do need the public to come forward if they know anything about the crime. There are no specific suspects at this time.”

However, Community Center Vice President Stuart Sax said he and other members think they were targeted based on religion.

“It is clearly a hate crime, and there is really no reason and no need for that in the Keys,” Sax said. “At our next board meeting we’ll see what actions to take to ward this off — maybe put out a video camera to find out who is responsible. We don’t want to see it happen to any other church or synagogue.”

In 2003, vandals painted several swastikas about 18 inches high on the Community Center’s sign.

Sax said he doesn’t believe the phrase “SOS” refers to Save Our State, an anti-immigrant group formed in Southern California in 2004.

According to news reports, the group takes its name from California’s 1994 Proposition 187, known as the “Save Our State” initiative. The proposition, which denied health care and some education to illegal immigrants, was approved by a majority of voters but was immediately challenged and eventually struck down by a US district court four years later.

The group led rallies and demonstrations, including outside of California, opposing illegal immigration. Although, other acts opposing all Hispanic immigrants and some Jewish immigrants were linked to the group.

The group’s website, SaveOurState.org, states it was closed indefinitely this month.



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Category: Synagogue/Jewish Security

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