District and Rockville City police say they are looking for suspects in two anti-Semitic vandalism attacks over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
In Northeast Washington, the phrase “I want Jexit” was spray painted outside two Jewish-owned businesses. And in Rockville, a swastika was found painted outside Richard Montgomery High School.
“Jexit” is thought to stand for the phrase “Jews Exit,” a play on Brexit, the colloquial term for Great Britain leaving the European Union. The word was also found on the American Federation for Teachers headquarters in Washington last year.
The incident at Richard Montgomery High School is the second time in two months that school property has been defaced, according to The Washington Post. In late December, red plastic cups that were arranged on a fence to spell “seniors” were rearranged to spell a racial slur.
The swastika was removed immediately after it was discovered. Kiera Butler, the school’s principal intern, sent a letter to parents on Jan. 21, stating, “There is zero tolerance for bigotry in all forms.”
She added that students will be participating in activities related to “strengthening our dialogue around race, tolerance and unity.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Jan. 17 announced an increase in his proposed budget for grants “to more effectively prevent and address instances of hate and violence across our state.” $3 million in competitive grants will be available to schools and houses of worship, Bethesda Magazine reported.
Hate crimes — defined by the FBI as “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity” — have been on the increase.
In the Washington region, the FBI reported a 42 percent increase in hate crimes in 2016 from 2016.
Nationally, hate crimes jumped 17 percent, compared to a 5 percent increase in 2016, according to the agency. Of the 7,000 reported incidents, 938 targeted Jews.
Virginia State Police reported a near 50 percent increase in reported hate crimes in Virginia in 2017, compared to 2016.
In Maryland, 393 hate incidents were reported to law enforcement in 2017, a 35 percent increase over 2016.
Last month, Dylan Mahone was sentenced to 21 months in prison for painting swastikas and anti-Semitic phrases on the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia in 2017. He also left anti-LGBT messages and anti-Muslim messages at a nearby church and community college.