People think it’s not going to happen in our town
by David Miller
Loveland, Ohio – Resident, Bruce Leever sent these photos to Loveland Magazine on Friday. The graffiti was probably painted on Thanksgiving Day. The location is the Loveland Bike Trail, just at the border of the City of Loveland and Hamilton Township in Warren County, about 1,000′ north of Kiwanis Park.
The “Pepe the Frog” meme, described by Leever as about 15′ wide, is used by anti-Muslim and white supremacist groups, but mostly by anti-Semitics to promote neo-Nazi propaganda. Lever said It appears the graffiti was painted by white racists because of the addition of the words, “Obama the King Nigger”, the crown on the frog’s head, and the addition of large ears and pronounced nose.
Pepe, is originally a cartoon amphibian introduced in the comic strip Boy’s Club by artist Matt Furie, however its innocence has been corrupted and used by hate groups.
Lever said the public might just see the act of vandalism as a trivial act of a teenager with spray paint, but he found additional graffiti on a nearby tree painted with the name, “Trump”. By the time Leever found the tree, it had been further painted by what he described as, “counter-graffiti” sprayed in red to change the meaning, “Love Trumps Hate.”
“No connection to the election? Ha,” Lever commented. “With the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trumps’s campaign he has emboldened people to do stuff like this. It’s happening all around the country now at an alarming rate.”
The hate message was painted directly in front of a bench that was placed on the trail to honor Leever’s deceased wife Judy. “I doubt that whoever did this knew anything about Judy or did this because it was a park bench to honor her, but its hard not to take this personally,” The Leevers raised their three boys not far from where the graffiti was found. Bruce Leever spoke about his Jewish wife and all of the Black children he and Judy welcomed into their home. Bruce coached youth basketball and Judy tutored and cooked for everyone. Children of all ethnicities and diverse cultures became their large extended family. “It is offensive for them as well,” Leever said slowly – repeating the names of the Black children, pausing to collect his emotions as he remembered each of them. Children of all faiths and ethnicity, were offered Passover meals at the Leever home. They are now young adults in the Loveland community.
The Anti-Defamation League added Pepe the Frog to their database of hate symbols in 2016 and have denounced Donald Trump’s campaign for its supposed promotion of the meme.
Lever called the Loveland Police Department Friday and an officer met him on the trail and explained the incident was not within their jurisdiction because it was in Hamilton Township, however they did call the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to report the vandalism. The Loveland Bike Trail is part of the Little Miami Scenic State Park, maintained by ODNR. On Saturday morning, Lever said that he was going to call the Hamilton Township Police to report the crime.
Loveland Police Chief Sean Rahe was asked today what charges the perpetrator might face. He said, “Unfortunately, I don’t have any personal knowledge about the bench. Assuming the information your provided is correct, this incident would qualify under Ohio’s ethnic intimidation law. The perpetrator could be charged with criminal damaging and ethnic intimidation. Ethnic intimidation is a separate charge and is one penalty degree higher than the underlying offense.”
The Ohio Bar Association says, “A judge or jury must find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the criminal act was motivated by race, color, religion or national origin of another person or group of persons. Once this additional finding is made, the offense is elevated into a higher-level misdemeanor or felony.”
Loveland Magazine asked the Hamilton Township Police Department about the incident and the only response was from the Township Administrator, Ray Warrick. After checking with his police department and ODNR, he said, “It looks like ODNR has jurisdiction.”
Loveland Magazine had earlier asked the ODNR about the incident. Brooke Betit, their Public Information Officer responded via email, “On Friday, Nov. 25, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) was notified by the Loveland Police Department about graffiti located on the Little Miami Scenic Trail. ODNR personnel have covered the graffiti and the vandalism is under further investigation.” She also said, “ODNR asks that if anyone sees suspicious activities or vandalism taking place, to contact #DNR, a non-emergency phone line.”
By late Sunday morning the Pepe meme with the offensive reference to President Obama was entirely painted over with black spray paint.
ThinkProgress says, “Various forms of hatred surged during Trump’s campaign — especially Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and general support for white supremacy. But his election appears to have emboldened vitriol of all kinds, triggering a rash of harrowing — and sometimes violent — incidents that has left many Americans afraid. Just one week out from Election Day, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted more than 300 reports of hate incidents, with more pouring in every day. One week later, their tally breached 700.”
Chief Rahe was asked if there has been any other incidents of ethnic intimidation reported to the Loveland Police Department recently. He said, “I am just back from a vacation and have not reviewed all activity in the last week. But, this is the only one I am aware of.”
Rahe concluded, “I’m certainly glad this situation was resolved quickly. It’s sad to see someone filled with such hatred.”
Read more about Judy Leever…