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.
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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