Poorly drawn swastikas found in Palo Alto, Stanford | News | Palo Alto Online |


Poorly drawn swastikas found in Palo Alto, Stanford

Stanford president: 'We have zero tolerance for such appalling acts'

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Poorly drawn swastikas were found throughout Palo Alto and on Stanford University's campus late last month, police and the university officials said this week.

Palo Alto police have been investigating about nine instances of vandalism, including on office buildings, the downtown Whole Foods grocery store, some city signs, an electrical box and in the College Terrace neighborhood, according to Palo Alto Police Sergeant Wayne Benitez. The symbols appeared in seven locations on Stanford's campus — including a pillar on the campus' Main Quad, signs, the Graduate School of Education building and the Clock Tower — and were first reported to police on Dec. 30 and 31, Stanford said in a statement Thursday.

The symbols, which were hand-drawn in an oil-based substance, according to Stanford, were drawn backwards, but were assumed to represent swastikas. One of the symbols in Palo Alto was found with the words "No Jews allowed," Benitez said. The vandalism was first reported to police on the first night of Hanukkah, Dec. 24, he said.

Benitez also pointed out that the swastikas were drawn incorrectly, whether intentionally or just out of "stupidity."

"You have to figure the person or the people that were responsible for this obviously completely irresponsible act obviously were not class valedictorians," Benitez said.

In a statement, Stanford Police Chief Laura Wilson also said that the symbols are "not technically swastikas."

"However, due to the similarity of the symbol to a swastika and the perception by witnesses that the symbols were intended to represent an object commonly associated with hate-based violence, the police are investigating the vandalism as a possible hate crime," Wilson said.

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne called the vandalism "profoundly troubling."

"It is profoundly troubling to learn that vandals have defaced both the Stanford campus and Palo Alto with symbols of hate," he said. "The university does not tolerate hate crimes, and our campus police are conducting a full investigation together with the Palo Alto police department. We have zero tolerance for such appalling acts. Stanford is a community that embraces civil discourse, where we value our differences and treat one another with respect."

In Palo Alto, swastika-like symbols were drawn on the Whole Foods building at 774 Emerson St.; on a sign in the 500 block of Page Mill Road; on the Morrison Foerster law firm's sign at 755 Page Mill Road, where the "No Jews allowed" message was found;" at the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati building at 650 Page Mill Road; the WilmerHale offices at 950 Page Mill Road; and four locations in College Terrace.

Benitez said the department received several calls from people who cleaned the vandalism themselves and then reported it to the police.

One of those people was Palo Alto City Councilman Cory Wolbach, who posted photographs on Facebook of a vandalized city sign. He said at Tuesday's City Council meeting that he heard about the vandalism from a friend on social media at about 10:30 p.m. the night before.

"I was mad, so I drove over there and cleaned it up," he said.

After the swearing in of new council members, Wolbach urged his colleagues and the community that if they see "any type of hate or bigotry in Palo Alto, that we continue to reject it, address it immediately and make sure that it finds no refuge here."

Wolbach was one of several council members behind a resolution the City Council recently adopted reaffirming the city's commitment to diversity and to rejecting bigotry "in all its forms."

Stanford police are working with the Palo Alto Police Department on the investigation. Police ask the community to call 650-329-2413 with any information they have regarding the symbols.


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6 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 6, 2017 at 9:32 am

This is very disturbing. I hope the PAPD can find the people who did this. Given the locations, there may be security cameras.

13 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 6, 2017 at 9:51 am

Well of course it was "stupidity." When's the last time you saw a smart Neo-Nazi or white power Bozo?

6 people like this
Posted by the real donald
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 6, 2017 at 9:53 am

[Post removed.]

23 people like this
Posted by Headline #FAIL
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 6, 2017 at 10:32 am

Reading the headline makes it look like the author(s) are more concerned with the quality of the swastikas rather than their actual presence. I wonder if they'd come up with a better headline had the swastikas been properly drawn.

3 people like this
Posted by the real donald
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jan 6, 2017 at 10:38 am

Agree with @Headline #FAIL. Stupid racists can be much more dangerous (than intellectual racists). Have you been following the Dylan Roof trial?

9 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 6, 2017 at 11:06 am

mauricio is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

16 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 6, 2017 at 11:08 am

Wondering why the local newspaper took a week to report an incident that was published in LA right after it happened? Reluctance to acknowledge that this exists in our community?

5 people like this
Posted by Bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 6, 2017 at 11:10 am

This is what it looks like when someone failed to fail.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 6, 2017 at 11:45 am

Graffiti is graffiti. When it is targeting an individual or an ideal that makes it worse. However, the nazi regime was in power a long time ago and I want to know if today's young people really understand any of that.

Prior to the nazi use of the symbol it was a celtic fertility symbol and also a popular Asian symbol. The design (in its correct form which is lopsided for the nazi symbol) is a clever geometric pattern. In Ireland, the name Swastika Laundry was a popular chain of laundromats and dry cleaning establishments that were in use until recently.

As much as these symbols are wrong to be vandalizing our community, are they any more wrong than other graffiti? Can we be sure that there is a hate message here or just some bored kids trying to get some attention?

Perhaps the fact that this had been played down was a good thing. I'm not quite sure about that.

44 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jan 6, 2017 at 12:07 pm


The article states that the words "No Jews allowed" accompanied one of the symbols. To me, that is ample evidence for this to be classified as a hate crime.

What more do you need to see this classified as a hate crime?

2 people like this
Posted by fred
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 6, 2017 at 12:38 pm

[Post removed.]

5 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 6, 2017 at 12:53 pm

We don't know whether these things were drawn by attention-seeking teenagers trying to get someone to notice them, or whether they were drawn by some sicko Nazi-types trying to spread their message of hate as widely as possible.

Either way, by drawing so much attention to them, we unwittingly serve the purposes of the perpetrators. Whether the perpetrators are kids or kooks, we can only encourage imitators by putting their antics in the newspapers.

13 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2017 at 1:17 pm

@ mauricio, I happen to have a fairly public fence in Midtown. It gets tagged fairly often. Sometimes it is 'Johnny loves Suzie' stuff; other times it is gang banger stuff; some political stuff; a rare swastika; some peace signs. All this has been going on for decades in PA. I don't bother reporting to police, anymore, because it is useless. I just paint them out and move on. Nothing to do with Trump.

11 people like this
Posted by Catch the Punks
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 6, 2017 at 2:00 pm

I'm happy to give them the attention they crave while they stand trial for hate crimes and let them ponder it while doing time ideally or at least a lot of community service. Please photograph folks you see doing this and give the evidence to police so we can make it clear we will not tolerate racism not become an idiocracy.

16 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 6, 2017 at 3:21 pm

Ken --

In the weeks following Trump's election, a surge in hate crime has been reported by a wide variety of media outlets including Time, The New Yorker, CBS, NBC, The New York Times, Forbes, The Guardian, Fortune, PRI, PBS, and People, among others. A Google search will produce ample references.

It is not my intention to alter the direction of this conversation, but regardless of the tags you find on your fence, there is reason to believe the increase in hate acts is influenced by the president-elect.

7 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 6, 2017 at 5:32 pm

@ Abitarian, I am aware of only one hate crime in this area. It happened at Woodside high school, where a black girl attacked a white girl because the white girl supported Trump. Are you aware of other local hate crimes in the post Trump election? My history with my own fence suggests to me that tags are all over the place, ideologically. I never take them seriously, because there are a lot of teenage wannabes out there that like attention, and might even tag opposite things just to watch me have to paint them out.

8 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Jan 7, 2017 at 10:51 am

Report Graffiti to Palo Alto 311.

Web Link

12 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 7, 2017 at 11:17 am

Let me guess, Ken, that none of that tagging has felt personally directed at you? There are actually a lot of Jews in Palo Alto and for every one I know, this is a punch to the gut. I'm kind of stunned that anyone on this board is excusing a hate crime.

2 people like this
Posted by Ken
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 7, 2017 at 12:34 pm

@ Curious, I have had some anti-white racist tags, and there was also some anti-black racist stuff. No, I never took it personally, even though I am white. There is anti-Semitic bias out there, just look at our college campuses, but some kid with a spray can tagging swastikas is hardly of that order of seriousness. Graffiti, of any type, should just be painted out or rubbed off. To give it seriousness is to invite more of it. Don't take the bait.

2 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 7, 2017 at 3:14 pm


I am Jewish (grandson of Holocaust survivors no less). I do not need you to express outrage on behalf Jews or another minority.

The outrage is disproportionate to the actual "crime" that's being
committed, and so it does not sound genuine... it sounds like you're trying to show off how un-racist and morally righteous you must be.

Constant overreaction to *signs* of bigotry desensitizes the population and allows the true bigots to slip through, undetected...

10 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 7, 2017 at 6:07 pm

A couple observations.

Mention race issues in an article in you get a ton of comments

Have people seen the amount of graffiti these days on our highways, bridges, signs lately and people are only finally upset at this?

Many people mention a hate crime. Please justify hate crime to me. If I as a white male get the crap beat out of me walking down University avenue by a gang of youths are you telling me my assailants should be treated less severely than if they beat up a black man. Really?

4 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 7, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Oh, trust me, I'm not morally superior to anyone. I am, however, the child of a survivor. Half my family was murdered, and the reason most didn't leave (when they still could) is that they were all too willing to attribute the nastiness to a few crackpots. It didn't get bad all at once; the ugliness crept up over a few years. My relatives never thought it could happen there, or to them.

There are many of us in Palo Alto with similar histories. Maybe you can understand why seeing swastikas in that context would unnerve us? Sure, we can make excuses. Maybe it's just a few asocial individuals. Maybe some kids having fun. Or maybe there are many around here who wouldn't mind seeing us shipped off? My rational self may scoff, but my paranoid self sees no reason it couldn't happen again.

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