More racist graffiti popped up in central Oklahoma overnight, with three locations in Norman vandalized with hateful messages.
The Cleveland County Democratic Party headquarters, the Firehouse Art Center and McKinley Elementary School were defaced with racist messages against the Jewish religion and African Americans. Swastikas were spray painted on the buildings and on statues outside the Firehouse Art Center. A message in the art center’s parking lot also expressed hate for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“We were notified this morning that graffiti was found at McKinley Elementary,” said Wes Moody, communications specialist for Norman Public Schools. “The school administrator there notified the police department, and we are working with them to identify who did it, and we are also in the process of removing it.”
“I’m disgusted by this. Usually I don’t come out so loud to talk about this because it lends credence to the hate, but I’ve had enough of this,” said Rep. Jacob Rosecrants (D-Norman). “This is crossing over to a level that everybody should care about this. I don’t care where you come from or who you are, but this cannot be allowed in our state.”
Speaking before a committee meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday, Rosecrants urged community members to be vigilant and report suspicious activity to law enforcement.
“If you see anybody doing anything like this, please understand it shouldn’t be allowed,” he said. “The main part of this is that this is probably trying to be used as a fear tactic. But this only makes us fight harder to eradicate hate and all racism out of our state and our country.”
Norman City Ward 1 Councilwoman Kate Bierman posted several photos on Facebook as well:
Bierman told NonDoc that she went to the locations after hearing of the vandalism, which made her “blindly angry.”
“I just cried. I just stood there and cried,” Bierman said. “My family is Jewish. I have a connection to eastern Europe in the 1940s. So for me personally, you can tell people that this stuff still goes on, but until it happens publicly where the general public can see it, it doesn’t seem real to a lot of people.”
Wednesday’s vandalism comes six days after someone spray painted similar racist imagery and messages at the Oklahoma Democratic Party headquarters and the Chickasaw Nation metro building in Oklahoma City.
In investigating that crime, Oklahoma City police released photos of a woman caught on surveillance cameras:
Reference the female we posted photos of yesterday, she has been identified and interviewed. She IS NOT a suspect in any crime and has been cleared of any involvement. Investigators want to ID the female in the original photos we released Thurs. (graffiti incidents) 405-235-7300 pic.twitter.com/IxhoTkQF3p
— Oklahoma City Police (@OKCPD) March 31, 2019
Norman Ward 5 City Councilwoman Sereta Wilson said the fact these events have happened in multiple locations is concerning.
“It feels a little more organized that way. But also it seems very juvenile,” Wilson said. “I would hate to think that our young people are spreading this kind of hate, but it is more concerning because of the multiple locations.”
She said the vandalism of McKinley Elementary hits particularly close to home.
“It feels very personal to me. I have a very good friend whose daughter goes there,” Wilson said. “As a city leader, I don’t want our children subjected to this. How do you explain that to kids?”
Affected entities respond
“I was disgusted and heartbroken this morning to learn that racist and hateful graffiti was found at McKinley Elementary School. I share the McKinley community’s shock and outrage at this vile act,” said Dr. Nick Migliorino, superintendent of Norman Public Schools, in a statement earlier this afternoon. “We condemn these messages of hate, and the cowardly person or persons responsible for them, in the strongest possible terms. They are in direct opposition to our stated core values of integrity, inclusiveness, optimism and collaboration.”
Douglas Shaw Elder, Executive Director of the Norman Firehouse Art Center, also released a statement.
“Today the outside of the Firehouse Art Center and one of our signature sculptures was defaced with words and symbols of hate. Others in central Oklahoma have recently experienced the same horrible behavior. It is vandalism pure and simple, but does more to unite our community than divide it,” Elder said. “We are working with law enforcement to find the person or persons who are in so much pain that they have expressed it in this violent manner. They need to be stopped and to get help.”
Shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Norman Police Department released the following video of the woman sought in connection with these incidents:
SHARE: Do you recognize the female or vehicle in this video? She is believed to be involved in 3 incidents of vandalism that occurred overnight as well as recent incidents in OKC. Anyone w/ info or video is asked to contact NPD at 405-366-6447 or Crime Stoppers at 405-366-7867 pic.twitter.com/kLUmOaQAP8
— Norman Police (@normanokpd) April 3, 2019
Norman police arrested 45-year-old Allison Christine Johnson, who is facing multiple charges in connection to the vandalisms.
(Update: This story was updated at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, April 3, to add an additional photo and include quotes from Bierman and Wilson. This story was updated again at 3:02 p.m. to add statements from Norman Public Schools and the Norman Firehouse Art Center. It was updated again at 4:24 p.m. to include the video released by the Norman Police Department. It was updated again at 2:50 p.m. Monday, April 8, to reference Allison Christine Johnson’s arrest and charges.)