Atlanta police hunt vandal responsible for spray-painting swastika onto rainbow crosswalk

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Atlanta's rainbow crosswalksPhoto: Shutterstock

Police in Atlanta, Georgia are hunting the individual responsible for spray painting a swastika and an anti-gay slur on a rainbow crosswalk in midtown on Wednesday.

The person, who was captured on surveillance video, wore all black and is believed to have spray-painted another swastika near a Federal Reserve building on Friday. The second swastika was covered by paper as police began investigating. Workers from the city’s Department of Transportation used pressure washers to quickly remove the first swastika from the crosswalk.

“When you have a swastika, when you have homophobic graffiti, of course it’s a hate crime,” interim Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The motivation is to intimidate. The motivation is to spread hate, and this city doesn’t have any room for hate, and this police department doesn’t tolerate hate.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Andre Dickens’ office called the vandalism “disgusting” and thanked city workers “for erasing the hate that has no place in our city in such a swift and efficient manner.”

Police have asked for the public’s help in identifying the person.

The city installed the crosswalks for its 2015 Pride event. Artist Robert Sepulveda Jr. spent more than a year planning the artwork. Former Mayor Kasim Reed decided to make the crosswalks permanent in 2017 in recognition of the local LGBTQ community’s contributions.

The crosswalks have been damaged in the past by skid marks from car racers. Though no arrests were made for this damage in the past, the city installed metal plates in the intersection to discourage racers from leaving similar marks.

Hate crimes targeting religious and LGBTQ communities in Georgia increased dramatically from 2019 to 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2019, the department recorded 9 hate crimes against religion and 6 against sexual orientation. In 2020, those numbers jumped to 26 and 24, respectively — a 188 percent and 300 percent increase, respectively.

About 72.6 percent of the state’s hate crimes occurred against people and 24.8 percent occurred against property.

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