Multiple swastikas, at least one anti-Jewish message, and the words “Heil Hitler” were discovered on the Nassau Community College campus over the last two months, and now authorities are investigating the incidents as possible bias crimes.
In total, the college has reported five separate incidents to Nassau County police from Oct. 15 to Dec. 2, police said. In three of the incidents, multiple swastikas were discovered inside campus bathrooms. The anti-Semitic symbol was also found on a handrail and a wall of the campus’ “B” building.
Police did not repeat what the derogatory message said, but Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, the department’s chief spokesman, noted that it was “biased against the Jewish community.”
All of the cases remain unsolved.
“The individual who did this is absolutely misguided,” LeBrun told reporters. “It’s reprehensible. It’s not appropriate in our thinking and the public’s thinking.”
He said, “We all work together to try to make good, good communities.”
In a statement, Nassau Community College President Dr. Hubert Keen said the school has “zero tolerance for any and all kinds of hate speech,” adding that the disconcerting discoveries are “unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”
“While it is unclear whether the graffiti crime was committed by trespassers or not, the institution will take all steps necessary to ensure that the perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and that Nassau Community College remains a safe haven for all students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Keen said.
Evan R. Bernstein, New York regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, released a statement expressing concern over the multiple swastika discoveries.
“Institutions of learning must be a safe space for all students,” he said. “No one should ever be subjected to such hateful anti-Semitic imagery or be made to feel vulnerable on campus. We hope Nassau Community College leadership will do all it can to discourage such acts of hate and encourage respect among its student body.”
The swastikas were uncovered by the college’s staff on Oct. 15, 28, 29 and Dec. 2, LeBrun said, adding that the perpetrator could face one to four years in prison on a Class E felony. On Friday evening police responded to NCC yet again after a student found the words “Germany” and “Heil Hitler” drawn with a black marker inside the men’s bathroom of the “E” building, police said.
Although three of the incidents occurred before Nov. 8, the latest discovery has further troubled minority and Jewish groups amid a surge of hate crimes across the country following the election of Donald Trump.
Earlier this week, Nassau police said it is investigating a hate crime in Mineola in which “Make America White Again”—a play on President-elect Donald Trump’s oft-repeated slogan—as well as a racial slur and swastikas were found spray-painted on a Mineola sidewalk.
Anti-hate groups have documented hundreds of similar incidents across the country, though Long Island has yet to have any reports of physical attacks.
Nassau police’s Third Precinct is investigating the crimes at Nassau Community College’s campus and in Mineola. The department has also increased patrols in the impacted areas.
When asked why the public is only now learning of the October incidents, LeBrun explained that the Third Precinct was being given the appropriate time to investigate the case and that the incidents were not immediately reported to the department’s Public Information Office, which is not uncommon. LeBrun’s department was not notified until Dec. 7, he said.
“They’re [Third Precinct investigators] looking at surveillance tapes. They’re interviewing college personnel. If they are looking for an individual, they necessarily don’t want the attention drawn to that,” LeBrun said.
The police department does not see the delay in reporting the incident “as a problem,” LeBrun said, adding, “There’s no hiding of facts here.”
At the press conference, Robert Solomon, chairman of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Long Island, said that his group “stands in solidarity” with police “against these harmful acts.”
Still, Solomon said it is necessary to consider the spate of hate crimes together as opposed to singular incidents.
“It seems to me that since the election there hasn’t been a day when…I haven’t seen something in the paper,” said Solomon, as he referenced various recent news articles, including one about US Jews struggling with anti-Semitism.
“I think we have to connect the dots here. There are dangerous winds of hate, which are blowing across America,” he added. “And whether it’s under the guise of alt-right or nationalism or Brexit, or whatever you call it, things are happening that are inciting the passions of those people in this country.”
“We stand with all our brothers from all ethnicities, religions, backgrounds, to stand for a position against hate,” Solomon continued, “because for evil to triumph, all it takes is for good people to do nothing.”
Since the election, many minority groups have coalesced around one common foe: hate. Jews and Muslims gathered together at a mosque in Westbury last week and plan to hold monthly events across the Island. Various ethnic groups have created a collective dubbed, “Long Island Together,” with a stated goal of protecting vulnerable people and standing up against hate.
This story has been updated to include the messages found on Friday.
(Featured photo credit: NCC/Facebook)