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Swastika found on East Campus bridge, painted over soon after

<p>The red swastika on the East Campus Bridge was painted over.</p>

The red swastika on the East Campus Bridge was painted over.

A red swastika was found painted on the East Campus Bridge Wednesday around 4:30 p.m and was quickly painted over. 

The bridge, located near Smith Warehouse on Campus Drive, is the site of murals from Duke students and members of the Durham community. The swastika was found on the forehead of a design of a character from the Adult Swim television show “Rick and Morty.”

It was promptly painted over around 5:30 p.m., and the white space was later edited with the words "STOP THE HATE LOVE IS FREE."


Courtesy of Andrew Carlins


"The University unequivocally condemns this cowardly action," wrote Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, in an email to The Chronicle. "Scrawling a symbol of hate may have been an effort to intimidate the Duke community, but instead it will simply strengthen our resolve to denounce and combat anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its forms."

He added that DUPD is handling the investigation.

"The incident is currently under investigation by Duke Police, which will review images from the security cameras that cover the bridge and surrounding public space," he wrote. 

DUPD Chief of Police John Dailey wrote in an email Wednesday night that DUPD has "several people working on this" and "encourage anyone who sees behavior on campus that is suspicious to report it."

Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president for student affairs, wrote in an email to The Chronicle that she was "very disheartened to see a symbol of anti-Semitic hatred on the free expression bridge."

"Meanwhile, Student Affairs will be working with the Center for Jewish Life, student leaders, and other campus life resources to identify opportunities for community engagement and support from here," McMahon wrote.  

In an email sent to students Wednesday night, McMahon wrote that the University "[condemns] this act of bigotry and anti-Semitism and understand that many students will be adversely impacted to learn of this expression of hatred in our midst."

This type of vandalism occurred in Fall 2018, when a swastika was painted over a mural on the East Campus bridge memorializing the Pittsburgh shooting at a synagogue. The swastika defaced a painting of the gold Star of David, symbolizing hope for the Jewish community. 

Two more anti-semitic incidents occurred on campus in Fall 2018. A swastika was found carved into a bathroom stall in the Languages building, which was later scratched out. A pumpkin with the symbol carved into it was also found on East Campus, along with sheets of paper strewn throughout campus that said, “It’s okay to be white.” 

Joyce Gordon, director of Jewish Life at Duke, condemned the "disturbing increase in antisemitic acts on campuses around the country" in an email to The Chronicle.

"It's upsetting to see that Duke has been targeted in this way today," she wrote. "Jewish Life at Duke does not stand for this kind of brazen, bigoted, and backwards attack. The Jewish community at Duke is strong, and will continue to be so. I'm thankful for the swift and supportive response from the University, from DUPD and from our many campus partners." 

Also that semester, a mural painted by Mi Gente on the East Campus Bridge to honor Latinx Heritage Month was vandalized with black scribbles less than 24 hours after finishing. A man later admitted to the act, claiming he “felt bad” that he outlined his piece over their mural. 

After those incidents took place, President Vincent Price promised in a November 2018 message to the Duke community that the University would place security cameras at the East Campus Bridge. He also vowed to increase security at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life.

Anti-semitic posters were also posted on the East Campus wall and Main Street sidewalk in Spring 2018. The posters depicted imagery of a gun pointed toward a stereotypical representation of a Jewish person.

Kathryn Silberstein, Stefanie Pousoulides and Ben Leonard contributed reporting.

Editor's Note: This article and photo caption stated that DUPD painted over the mural, but The Chronicle is currently seeking confirmation. 

This story will be updated if more information becomes available.

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