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Swastika spray painted on homemade pro-Trump sign near Ledyard High

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Ledyard — A homemade political sign that was posted near Ledyard High School last week has been taken down after a gold swastika was spray painted over the sign's pro-Trump message this weekend.

Ledyard police said they are investigating the anti-Semitic vandalism, which took place about 12:55 p.m. Saturday, and left a large, gold swastika plastered across the sign on Gallup Hill Road.

Ledyard Police Chief John Rich said the sign, a piece of plywood attached to a tree, was first spotted on Friday night behind the high school, east of the intersection of Spicer Hill Road. The words "Go Trump Shif Liar" were spray painted on the plywood in blue, according to police. The message may have been a reference to Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a prosecutor in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

The sign appeared to be homemade, Rich said. It was taken down Saturday and another homemade sign had by Monday taken its place. According to police, the new sign reads "Go Trump U R sore losers Democrats."

Police are investigating where the original sign came from, and whether the person who posted the political message later added the swastika, or if the symbol was added later by someone else.

John Rodolico, chairman of the Ledyard Republican Town Committee, said that he felt that vandalism was "quite obviously" done by a person who is anti-Trump.

"I don't think there's anyone who supports a Nazi symbol or putting a swastika in any form anywhere," said Rodolico, "But it is quite evident to me, in my observations, both looking at the media and activities around the country, that that symbol is used as anti-Trump, anti-Republican, anti-conservative values. It's a very radical way that people try to radicalize conservatives and those who support President Trump."

Rodolico said he was confident that the person who made the pro-Trump sign, or any person who supports Trump, did not vandalize the sign.

"Anyone who thinks that this was done by someone of the same philosophy as the person who put up the sign would be somewhat delusional," he said.

Many community leaders on Monday were outraged by the hateful symbol, calling for the vandals to be found and brought to justice.

Marcelle Wood, chair of the Ledyard Democratic Town Committee, issued a statement Monday and said that the sign had been removed.

"Ledyard is an open, accepting community. All signs of hate in our community must be challenged and, if considered by our police force to be a hate crime, justice must prevail," said Wood. "Silence is, in effect, acceptance or approval of abhorrent behavior. When left unchallenged, hate persists and grows."

Wood warned that hate speech can escalate to harassment, threats, or physical violence and make Ledyard residents feel unsafe or unwelcome.

"Hate speech and crimes not only cause many community members to feel angry, frightened, or unsafe, especially marginalized citizens, they damage the whole community," said Wood.

State Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, posted a photo of the sign on Facebook with her statement of outrage, writing that she was "horrified and embarrassed" by the vandalism.

"Swastikas are no laughing matter; it symbolizes hatred, bigotry, and exclusion," she said. "We as a community need to be better and ensure something like this never happens again."

State Sen. Catherine Osten, D-Sprague, issued a statement Monday, acknowledging that another sign within her jurisdiction had recently been vandalized with another anti-Semitic image.

"This symbol represents hate, violence and discrimination; for it to be near a high school is a sobering reminder of how pervasive anti-Semitism remains. We must fight back against hatred in all its forms," she said.

Ledyard police said they weren't aware of any other instances of vandalism involving swastikas in Ledyard.

Police were investigating the vandalism Monday and were working to determine the motivation behind the graffiti, Rich said.  

t.hartz@theday.com

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