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De Blasio, Cuomo Accused Of Indifference After Racist Graffiti Discovered At African Burial Ground Monument

The African Burial Ground National Monument
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The African Burial Ground National Monument via WallyG

The African Burial Ground Monument, a historic site near City Hall honoring free and enslaved black residents buried in lower Manhattan, was vandalized with a racist slur last week.

The message—"Kill all n-ggers"—was scrawled near the monument in black marker, and found on Thursday, according to police. A few hours later, it was discovered that a Prospect Heights synagogue was defaced with several anti-Semitic messages, including "Kill All Jews." A suspect in the synagogue crime, who's also accused of setting fires to several shuls and yeshivas across Williamsburg, was arrested over the weekend. But community advocates note that authorities still have not identified any suspects, or released any surveillance footage, in the African Burial Ground Monument incident.

“Racism does exist in New York City,” activist Tariq Washington said during a rally on Sunday, according to CBS News. “How can there be all these cameras around and we are still looking for a suspect?”

Both the mayor and governor were also criticized for failing to swiftly denounce the attack. “Gov. Cuomo, your silence is deafening. Mayor de Blasio, your silence is deafening," added State Assemblyman Charles Barron, the Post reports. “When you come out for other communities, come out for us too." (Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted about the incident on Saturday; a spokesperson for Governor Cuomo's office did not immediately respond Gothamist's request for comment).

Additional hate incidents were also reported over the weekend. Surveillance footage shows a group of teenagers throwing a metal pipe through a window during a service at the Congregation Avnei Aish Volkin on Myrtle Avenue in Bed-Stuy. On Long Island, campaign signs belonging to Perry Gershon, the Democratic challenger to GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin, were covered in swastikas. In response, a spokesperson for Zeldin suggested the vandalism was a false flag "to gain sympathy votes for their flailing campaign."

On Monday afternoon, the architect of the African Burial Ground Monument, Rodney Leon, is set to join local elected officials to call for unity against the racist vandalism, and other hateful messages across the city. "The environment created by bigots stirring racial and religious resentment for their own gain has led to that despicable mindset surfacing through acts of violence and intimidation, as we have seen in just the last week," Council Member Jumaane Williams said in a statement.

Reports of bias incidents spiked in New York City and elsewhere following the presidential election, and have remained high since then, according to data shared by the police. Overall, there have been 290 hate crimes reported in NYC through October 28th of 2018—two more than were reported in the same period last year.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo, Tyrone Stevens, said in a statement to Gothamist: "Governor Cuomo of course believes that the recent vandalism that occurred at this solemn memorial is despicable and beyond appalling. The African Burial Ground Monument is a site that celebrates the humanity and the memory of Africans who were enslaved in Manhattan — it’s critical to New York’s history. The Governor denounces this hateful act in the strongest possible terms and urges swift justice be brought to whomever committed this horrific act.”

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