by ERIN ROLL
Police are investigating after someone apparently spray-painted a swastika on a rock in Nishuane Park.
The graffiti was noticed on a rock near the park’s basketball court early last week.
Montclair Police Lt. David O’Dowd said the graffiti was tagged and logged for investigation, and that crews from the Department of Public Works were dispatched to remove it.
Joe Kavesh, the chair of the Montclair Civil Rights Commission, said the commission had not received any reports of anti-Semitic or racist graffiti, or any other bias incidents, in recent months, and that he had not heard about the Nishuane Park incident prior to being contacted by the Montclair Local.
“It’s a very disturbing and alarming trend. There’s absolutely no place for this,” he said of the graffiti.
Kavesh said he was hesitant to speculate on the motivation behind the graffiti before it was officially declared a bias crime, noting that it may be a copycat incident.
“This is clearly something that is of concern, I believe, to everyone on the Civil Rights Commission,” he said. “Given this spike in anti-Semitic conduct (across the country), it would be something to be discussed at our March meeting.”
On Feb. 28, hikers in South Mountain Reservation in West Orange and Millburn reported seeing a large number of spray-painted swastikas and other derogatory graffiti on the South Orange Avenue footbridge. The incident is under investigation by the Essex County Sheriff’s Office.
A number of Jewish cemeteries around the country have reported incidents of vandalism in recent weeks, especially incidents in which gravestones were toppled over.
O’Dowd said that incidents such as the one that occurred in Nishuane were relatively rare in Montclair. The MPD has a detective who is trained to handle bias incidents and related cases, and the department also works with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office during investigations into possible bias crimes, he said.