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What you need to know for 04/24/2017

Schenectady police investigate swastika vandalism

Schenectady police investigate swastika vandalism

A man found two swastikas painted on the outside of his Woodlawn home
Schenectady police investigate swastika vandalism
Andrew King stands in the doorway of his Chiswell Ave. home that was vandalized Friday, Feb. 10, 2017
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

With all the white around his Schenectady home, Andrew King noticed all the black.

He was clearing snow from the front of his driveway Friday afternoon when he saw two swastikas spray-painted on vinyl siding at his Chiswell Road house.

One black symbol was sprayed under a bedroom window in front of the home. The other was painted just above a black mailbox next to the front door. Small trees and bushes in front of the home could have provided cover for a trespasser.

"Just a vein of fear went right through me," said King, 54, a devout Jew who said he is almost always wearing his yarmulke when in and out of his home. "All that history attached to that Nazi symbol."

Schenectady police were at King's home during the early afternoon, asking questions about the vandalism and knocking on neighbors' doors. One neighbor told a Daily Gazette reporter that he had been sleeping overnight and had not seen or heard anything.

"A report was taken and the incident will be investigated further," said Sgt. Matt Dearing, a spokesman for the Schenectady Police Department. "We will look into all avenues, including if any neighbors have cameras."

King said he has never experienced any anti-semitism in the neighborhood, nor in his travels around the country. He said Chiswell Road, located off State Street in the city's Woodlawn section and close to the Niskayuna town line, is a mix of retirees, students and working-class people. His home is located near the corner of McDonald Avenue.

"It's pretty quiet," King said, as he took a break from preparation for Friday's observation of the Jewish Sabbath. "I don't ever hear any noise. It's a well-kept, clean neighborhood."

King said he says hello to his neighbors and often retrieves empty trash containers and recycle boxes for people on the street on garbage days.

There have been reports of swastika vandalism around the country ever since Donald J. Trump was elected president. The Nazi symbols of the World War II era have shown up on houses, cars and churches and have often linked to support for Trump.

But if the Chiswell Road vandal or vandals were emboldened by Trump, King said such a link would not have rattled him. He's a Trump fan.

"I'm a strong advocate of Mr. Trump's politics," King said. "I am a strong Conservative. I do not point the finger at Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump is basically an honorable man."

King said if the vandals wanted to get political, they should have spray-painted the image of a donkey -- the Democratic Party's longtime symbol -- on his house.

King said he has lived on Chiswell since his parents, the late Helen and Andrew King, bought the three-bedroom, ranch-style house in 1976. He said he left the place early Thursday evening to help a friend in Niskayuna shovel snow. He was back home around 10 p.m. and said the swastikas were not then on the house.

He expects the vandalism occurred during late night into early morning. His 5-year-old pit bull dog Lucy stirred once during the evening, but King said he heard nothing at the time.

King, who said he is retired on disability, said he also felt anger when he saw his damaged home. "I just wanted to put my hands around their necks," he said.

Swastika graffiti showed up in the Schoharie County village of Esperance on New Year's Day. Multiple symbols were spray-painted on several buildings and signs; a 13-year-old boy was later arrested on charges of making graffiti and burglary.

State police said they believed the boy did not act out of hatred.

The swastikas on Chiswell Road will remain for now.

"This can show people who thrive on hate, in my opinion, that love trumps hate in the long run," King said. "I will consult with the religious community and see how long we should leave them up, Jewish, Christian and Muslim.

"Things happen," King also said. "My father used to say, 'Only the strong survive.' You have to have a certain amount of strength in this world to survive. Otherwise, life is going to be very difficult."

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at wilkin@dailygazette.com or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter. His blog is at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/wilkin.

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