State and Colorado Springs leaders decry recent anti-Semitic activities

Vandals spray painted a Nazi Swastika on the reader board outside the Temple Beit Toran in Colorado Springs Friday, Aug. 4, 2017. Neighbors believe the vandals hit their neighborhood near the Bon Center the night before defacing the Jewish temple and cars near by. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

State and Colorado Springs officials are declaring zero tolerance for hate crimes following anti-Semitic and racist activity in the city.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, along with Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers and Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey issued a joint statement Thursday decrying the hateful graffiti on a synagogue and property in its surrounding neighborhood last week.

“The City of Colorado Springs and State of Colorado are proud of the diversity of our residents,” they wrote. “Colorado law expressly provides for the right of every person, regardless of their religion, race, color, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation to be protected from intimidation, harassment and physical harm. We are committed to the full enforcement of these laws.”

Friday morning, residents in the Bon neighborhood discovered a swastika and the words “sig (sic) heil” — for “sieg heil,” a Nazi salute — scrawled on one side of the sign outside Temple Beit Torah.

The “n” word was spelled out in large letters across the side of Luanne Ducett’s gold-colored sedan, parked near North Royer and Fontanero streets. It was one of at least seven vehicles in the area spray-painted with swastikas and other symbols.

The incident comes following a rise in hate crimes in Colorado and nationally. Colorado experienced a more than 12 percent increase in hate crimes in 2015 compared to 2014. There were 107 reported incidents in 2015, compared to 95 in 2014, according to the most recent statistics provided by the Anti-Defamation League.

The issue came up in the legislature this year, as lawmakers heard a measure seeking to track bias-motivated incidents. The bill – which was heavily watered down after being amended – became law this year.

The legislative effort came as reports proliferate of an increase in hate crimes across the nation, led by a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and attacks on immigrants and Muslims.

Vandalism has been reported at Jewish cemeteries across the country. And a high-profile case in Kansas caught the nation’s attention after a man allegedly opened fire on two Indians just after shouting, “Get out of my country.”

Some of the conversation revolves around whether the apparent spike in bias-motivated incidents is connected to President Trump’s rise to power.

In Denver in November 2016, a transgender woman found her vehicle spray-painted with hate messages and swastikas. Tagged on the hood of the car was “Trump.”

The assault in Colorado Springs spurred hundreds of people to rally Sunday in support of all of the city’s diverse residents.

“Hate crimes will not be tolerated in Colorado Springs or elsewhere in our beautiful state,” the joint statement from Hickenlooper, Suthers and Carey said. “We are all committed to using the full power of our offices, and the laws of our city and state, to stand up to hateful activities and crimes.”

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