Anti-Semitic graffiti scrubbed from South Street Bridge, police investigating

The offensive scrawl was removed within seven hours of being spotted.

The location of the graffiti, before it was removed

The location of the graffiti, before it was removed

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn illustration
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Southwest Philadelphia detectives are investigating an instance of anti-Semitic hate graffiti that appeared on the Schuylkill River Trail Tuesday morning. The graffiti has since been removed.

The bright blue scrawl, which read “Fuck Jews,” was written on the ramp that connects the “boardwalk” section of the trail with the South Street Bridge as it lofts over the river.

The reprehensible tag was spotted by local teacher Sophie Seifert around 7:45 a.m. on July 31, she told Billy Penn.

The ramp leading from the Schuykill Boardwalk to the South Street Bridge, before and after cleanup

The ramp leading from the Schuykill Boardwalk to the South Street Bridge, before and after cleanup

Before: courtesy Sophie Seifert; After: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

She subsequently notified both Parks & Rec and the office of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, in whose district it appeared.

“There is no place for anti-Semitism or any other type of hate in the City of Philadelphia,” Johnson said via email. “I think it’s unacceptable and sad that we are dealing with this in 2018.”

Johnson was also contacted by several others about the tag on Tuesday morning, his office confirmed. That included one person who, per his tweets, stayed near the vandalism and worked with other passersby to construct a makeshift cover until city crews arrived.

A team from CLIP, the city agency in charge of graffiti abatement, had been dispatched to the scene by noon, according to a city spokesperson. By 2:45 p.m., the offensive paint was gone.

The response was faster than average, Councilman Johnson noted, since the turnaround time for graffiti removal is seven to 10 days, or within 24 to 48 hours if there are pressing circumstances. The Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia praised the councilman and the Philly Police for acting quickly in this matter.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory, there was a burst of hate messages found around Philadelphia, including swastikas drawn on a building in South Philly and at a Fishtown park. In March 2017, anti-Semitism was believed to have driven the desecration of hundreds of headstones at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Mt. Airy.

There’s almost no way to determine whether instances of hate speech are on the rise or decline, however, since the Police Dept. doesn’t specifically track it — there’s no code for it in the federal standard used by law enforcement agencies nationwide.

The Dept. of Parks & Rec also does not track that info, but it’s “not something PPR normally sees,” a spokesperson said.

If you see graffiti — offensive or not — you can report it to Philly 311 or fill out an online removal request form. Johnson invites people to continue to reach out to his office as well.

“I want everyone to know your reports and pictures are taken seriously, regardless of what may be happening elsewhere in our country,” the councilman said. “We will continue to fight against hate in our city.”

The investigation into who perpetrated the scrawl near the South Street Bridge is ongoing, an officer at PPD’s Southwest Detective Division confirmed Tuesday evening.

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