Antisemitic graffiti was painted overnight in three tunnels along the Boise Greenbelt near the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial downtown, according to Boise police.
The graffiti included spray-painted swastikas and targeted Jews and other minority groups, according to Police Chief Ryan Lee. The city was notified of the graffiti early Saturday.
“We were able to work quickly with the Parks Department to respond and get the graffiti covered up,” Lee said in an interview with the Idaho Statesman at the memorial.
The defacement included at least a dozen instances of graffiti along the walls of tunnels on the Greenbelt.
The graffiti was discovered during Hanukkah, a significant eight-day Jewish holiday also known as the Festival of Lights. The memorial near the Greenbelt in downtown Boise commemorates the life and spirit of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl whose family hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam for over two years during World War II.
The Frank family’s hiding place was eventually discovered by the Gestapo, the German secret police, and Frank died in a concentration camp in 1945. Around 6 million Jews were killed by the German state and its collaborators during the Holocaust.
“Absolutely abhorrent conduct, and we’re not going to sit idly by and let that be,” Lee said of the graffiti.
Employees of the Parks and Recreation Department painted over the graffiti, which was in three tunnels on the Greenbelt on both sides of the memorial, early Saturday. Lee said he came downtown later that morning to make sure the messages weren’t visible through the paint, and had brought more paint with him.
“If that meant that we had to get paint brushes and paint over it ourselves, we were going to do it,” he said.
Lee said that the investigation into the incident is ongoing, but that he doesn’t think there are existing threats against Boise’s Jewish community.
“We do not believe that there’s any reason to have any enhanced security concerns, particularly for the Jewish community,” he said.
In an emailed statement, Mayor Lauren McLean said that the graffiti was a “literal and figurative stain on our community. This will not be tolerated.”
“Hate speech is reprehensible. It is not who (we) are as a city and is not part of our shared values,” she said in the statement. “I invite all good people of Boise to stand with me, as I stand with our Jewish neighbors, to rebuke this hate.”
In a tweet, Boise Police said the department had reached out to Jewish leaders in the community, letting them know the “behavior” would not be tolerated.
Lee said it was too soon to say whether either previous incident was connected to the graffiti found on Saturday.
“We recognize that for a lot of members of our community, even members that aren’t of the Jewish faith, this does not make them feel safe; it doesn’t fit with the welcoming, kind image that Boise is,” Lee said. “That’s why we wanted to quickly address it; that’s why we also take it so seriously.”
Lee added that he thinks this type of graffiti is driven by “hateful ignorance.”
“I wish we could rise to our better selves. Unfortunately, not everybody does,” he said.
Rabbi Dan Fink, of the Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel, on the Boise Bench, told the Statesman by phone that he has been disturbed by a rise in antisemitism in recent years.
“People of all political backgrounds need to speak out and really, really make it clear that this is not acceptable,” he said.
Fink said he heard about the graffiti Saturday morning when Chief Lee called him about it, and that he appreciates the support of the Police Department and the Boise community.
“There’s a lot of support out there,” he said.
He added that part of the Hanukkah holiday is a commemoration of religious freedom and a celebration of light.
“That graffiti is darkness, and there is darkness out there,” he said. “And so it’s up to us — every citizen of Boise and beyond — to be a light in the darkness, because light is more powerful than darkness.”