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In the latest edition of how racist AND anti-Semitic can one be, a North Carolina man has been charged with ethnic intimidation after defacing a monument dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr.
The act of racism took place April 28 when witnesses saw Heath Justus, 31, writing over the image of the civil rights icon. He was arrested that day. Police Chief Blair Myhand told WLOS-TV that Justus used a permanent marker to draw “anti-Semitic depictions” on the memorial, among other symbols and phrases, according to the Associated Press.
It was “clearly designed to provoke a reaction, and not in a good way,” Myhand said.
The graffiti was soon removed.
“When I saw the photo, I was alarmed,” said Melinda Lowrance, president of the Henderson County branch of the NAACP, according to ABC-15 News. “Just shocked that someone would take the time to deface this monument. What purpose did it have?”
“The fact that we were able to catch somebody and bring them to justice, we hope sends a strong message because we sought additional charges on this case,” Myhand said.
North Carolina law defines ethnic intimidation as threats or assaults on another person, or the damaging or defacing of property because of race, color, religion, nationality, or country of origin.
If convicted, Justus will spend 120 days behind bars.
Lowrance hopes Justus gets the max, saying it would make it clear to everyone who refuses to believe this type of thing could happen in their community that it is unacceptable.
“[They think] ‘This is not going to happen in Hendersonville,’ but it does,” she said. “And thank God for that concerned citizen who drove by and saw this, because it could have created a different reaction from the community.”