Swastikas deface main train station in US capital

A homeless man has been charged with the vandalism, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Police on Saturday arrested a suspect for drawing swastikas and hate messages found a day earlier on the pillars standing before the entrance to one of Washington, D.C.’s main train stations.

Geraldo Pando, 34, has been charged with “display of certain emblems and defacing private/public property.”

According to the authorities, Pando spray-painted the Nazi symbols in the middle of the night at Union Station. Later, on Friday afternoon, he added graffiti to three other buildings in the capital, they said.

The Metropolitan Police Department statement also said that they and Amtrak are investigating the offense “as potentially being motivated in whole or in part by hate or bias.”

Amtrak is the passenger railroad service that runs the trains out of Union Station. D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III earlier said that the perpetrator could be a homeless person with “mental health challenges.”

It is as yet unclear whether Pardo fits that description completely, but the police who arrested him did note that he had “no fixed address.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington “strongly condemned” the defacement, tweeting Friday: “This antisemitic and hateful symbol has no place in our society, and to find it in our city the week of International Holocaust Remembrance Day is particularly offensive.”

International Holocaust Remembrance Day was commemorated on Thursday. In a statement marking the occasion, President Joe Biden warned against a “resurgence of antisemitism,” saying, “hate doesn’t go away; it only hides.”

He also referenced the recent hostage-taking in a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue, when a British Islamist was killed by police after an hours-long standoff.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Saturday that the authorities were already cleaning the pillars.

“Union Station currently has a team of experts working diligently to remove the graffiti from the historic granite,” her office’s statement said. “This antisemitic and hateful symbol has no place in our city, and we stand united with the members of our Jewish community against anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, reacted swiftly to the news of the graffiti.

“The use of swastikas, a symbol of evil, cruelty and death, as graffiti outside of Union Station in the capital of the United States of America, a mere two miles from the White House, is repugnant,” it said in a statement.

“Following the observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day and juxtaposed to the fact that antisemitic materials can be easily purchased with the click of a button, these incidents highlight a very distressing situation not only in the U.S., but all over the world. We cannot allow such forms of hated to run rampant.”