"Racist graffiti, vandalism intensifiesPolice ask for help, after Winslow is papered with ominous fliers."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:57 PM
"The toppled headstone took more than a casual shove to upend; thick rebar once anchored the 400 pound marker to granite. Now the bent iron, the shattered base and the inscribed Star of David turned skyward give mute testimony to the desecration, a record of this crime and an echo of others.The cemetery vandalism and discovery of the words white pride sprayed at the Filipino-American Hall last week continued a series of incidents of vandalism and graffiti that bear racist messages. And Monday night, racist fliers full of violent imagery and the phrase Bullets, Bullets, Bullets were papered on at least 10 downtown businesses and city hall. The fliers were put up with wallpaper paste, and were signed Bainbridge Island Liberation Front.There's some language in there that's pretty disturbing, Bainbridge Police Chief Bill Cooper said, and I think it's getting worse.In response to the crimes, community leaders are organizing an anti-hate rally to be held at 1 p.m. Aug. 19, with the location yet to be determined. It's taken us a long time to react, said Karen Ahern, head of the Bainbridge Unity Coalition. These incidents have been going on for a year. So the rally is very important.They try to create fear in the community, but these events actually strengthen and unify us.The vandalism of their husbands' headstones at Port Blakely cemetery was discovered by Carol Shakow and her mother, 90-year-old Alice Braunstein on July 30. Don Shakow and Arnold Braunstein's markers had been overturned. Mementos of previous visits lay scattered.A swastika was found painted on a rock at the cemetery entrance just two days before. The imagery was painful to family members, who knew well its historical significance.My stepfather was a Holocaust survivor who went to his grave with numbers from Auschwitz tattooed on his arm, Shakow said. Don spent all his adulthood as an activist for the rights of minorities. Social justice was his life work.A white cross from an older grave site was also found toppled. The white pride graffiti spray-painted in black letters in pavement at the driveway of the Filipino-American hall was discovered by community association president Rudy RimandoWhoever did this painted the words to face the building, not the street, Rimando said. That message was for us. It's very disturbing, because we don't know what will be his or her next action. We hope it won't be extended to the building itself.The hall, which served as the focal point for the social life of the island's Filipino population in the first half of the 20th century, has been recently renovated. While Rimando said the Filipino way on Bainbridge is to make friends quietly on a daily basis, he has a message for the graffiti writer.We take this kind of action seriously, Rimando said, We don't want this for our Bainbridge Island community.Because the vandalism at the Filipino hall and Blakely Cemetery target specific groups, it can be prosecuted as a hate crime, Cooper said.This is a priority case for us, Cooper said Tuesday morning, minutes before he was to meet with community leaders. It won't be tolerated.Cooper asked anyone with information on the crimes to call Bainbridge Police at 842-5211. The investigation is being handled by Detective Steve Cain.Repairs, responseSpeaking for the Jewish group Kol Shalom's board of directors, a representative said, We deplore the vandalism that recently marred the Port Blakely cemetery. We stand in unison with our friends who have also been vandalized recently.A Shir Hayam representative said, We are heartened by the swift support and encouragement we have received. The recent acts against minorities and so many Bainbridge institutions demonstrate that we must speak and act as one community against hatred and violence here. At the Port Blakely Cemetery, repairs are under way. Sacks has covered the swastika in black paint. John Iverson of Poulsbo's Iverson Monuments has righted Braunstein's gravestone, although Shakow's still remains off-kilter. Meanwhile, Carol Shakow tries to regain her own equilibrium by trying to comprehend the act.She wonders whether the perpetrator is a bored teenager without parental supervision, or someone committing a racially-motivated hate crime. She would like to determine whether the perpetrators acted alone or were members of a white supremacist group, and whether they are local or off-island.She imagines a response that would include not only punishment but treatment, not just restitution but the instilling of values that would preclude hate crimes. She views the crisis as an opportunity for refection and dialogue.She embraces what some might call an enlightened, compassionate response to the crime as a tribute to her activist husband. It is as fitting a memorial, she feels, as any upright gravestone. "