Swastikas On Western Mass. College Campuses Part Of Troubling Trend, Says ADL

Nov 4, 2019

Swastikas found at Smith College and UMass Amherst in recent weeks are part of a broader escalation of anti-Jewish activity, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Eight swastikas were drawn on the walls of academic building at Smith. And someone drew several on the walls of the Fine Arts Building at UMass Amherst.

Robert Trestan, head of the Anti-Defamation League's Boston office, said the swastika is used to send a message to a variety of communities.

"It's a symbol of hate that is directed against Jews, but also the LGBTQ community, people of color, immigrants," he said. "A lot of extremists have appropriated the swastika."

In June, the ADL reported the distribution of white supremacist propaganda on college campuses increased nationwide for the third straight year.

In Massachusetts, the organization said there were seven incidents in the last academic year.

Trestan said the campus swastikas, along with three attempted arsons at Jewish centers near Boston this year, show that people are now "operationalizing" hatred.

"They're crossing the line from free speech to criminal activity," Trestan said. "When they go to the trouble, as they did at UMass Amherst, to climb up onto the side of the building to spread a message of hatred, they're going out of their way to disseminate hatred to other people."

Trestan said the incidents are troubling, because very often, the next step is violence.