Religious leaders, members of the African-American community and elected officials gathered in Cranston Wednesday to condemn swastikas spray-painted at a recreation facility.
The graffiti was discovered just one day after a swastika appeared on a sign at a Pawtucket synagogue. Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island spokesman Marty Cooper said he doubts the two incidents are related.
“I don’t think there’s a connection at all,” said Cooper. “The only connection that I could think of is a simple four letter word. And that’s hate.”
Cranston Police Chief Michael Winquist said police are canvassing the area and working with resource officers in Cranston public schools
Winquist said he does not believe the incident is related to another swastika spray painted at a Jewish center in Pawtucket on Sunday.
“I can tell you that we do believe there’s a possibility that this might have been a dispute between a couple middle school students,” said Winquist.
Jewish Alliance spokesman Cooper said he has noticed an increase in this type of incident over the last two years.
“Every time something like this happens, we need to address it in some shape or form,” said Cooper. “If we just let it go, it’s just going to continue to move forward, and that’s one of the problems.”
In addition to the swastikas, Cranston police are investigating anti-Muslim language and a reference to the Ku Klux Klan. Cooper said he sees a parallel in the tenor of national discourse, including the presidential contest.
“If we were to allow people of national stature to be bullies and to praise them, then what else do we expect from ordinary citizens?”
Cooper is urging residents to promote civil discussion and education to bring communities together. Cranston police are investigating the graffiti as a hate crime.