Anti-Semitic vandalism shocks UC Davis campus

JAY GELVEZON / AGGIE
JAY GELVEZON / AGGIE

Unidentified suspect slashes tires of eight cars, etches anti-Semitic slurs on two vehicles.

On Sept. 10 at approximately 3:00 a.m., an unidentified suspect slashed eight car tires and scratched five cars in the Colleges at La Rue parking lot, as well as one vehicle near Russell Park Apartments. Two of the cars contained anti-Semitic notes, including a swastika and the words “F—Jews” etched on the hoods of the cars.

The suspect was described by witnesses as a white male in his mid-20s with an estimated height of 5’9”, weighing approximately 150 pounds. He was also described as having dark hair, wearing a black hoodie with black pants and carrying a messenger bag.

Shortly after the crime occurred, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi released two statements following up on the progress of the current police investigation. In her statement, she revealed that none of the victims of the vandalized cars were Jewish. Additionally, she affirmed that the UC Davis Police Department and the administration intend to hold the suspect accountable, and that their efforts signify the campus’ responsibility to create a community that promotes tolerance and respect.

“We must abide by our Principles of Community, which define our commitment to fight anti-Semitism and others forms of discrimination,” Katehi said in the statement. “We must promote tolerance and respect. We must not let incidents like this deter us from nurturing an environment that welcomes people of all backgrounds and values.”

Marshall Walters, assistant apartment manager of the Colleges at La Rue, said that he was surprised by the vandalism that occurred in a learning place like UC Davis. He also expressed his disappointment in not being able to protect his tenants from such crimes.

“We don’t have video cameras in our parking lots, [the parking lots] are not chained up, but even so, there can be people who make their way in,” Walters said. “There’s no way we can ensure that their car doesn’t get keyed or vandalized […] beyond providing a closed garage space.”

The UC Davis Police Department is currently investigating the issue by following up on leads from its crime bulletin and communicating on a daily basis with the apartment manager as well as other witnesses.

HANNAH WODRICH / AGGIE
HANNAH WODRICH / AGGIE

“Getting a car scratched is a very expensive thing [to fix], […] but hate and hurtful speech in the community impacts us all,” UC Davis Police Chief Matthew Carmichael said. “We don’t have to be a particular person to feel badly for someone else. Hateful speech hurts us as a community.”

Jack Mizes, president of Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) at UC Davis, a club dedicated to fighting racism and also the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories, sees the fact that none of the victims were Jewish as being inconclusive of the suspect’s beliefs and true intentions.

“We, JVP at Davis, released a statement that said that because none of the students were Jewish, we can’t conclude that this is a conscious attack by someone who truly believes in anti-Semitism,” Mizes said. “But that’s not to delineate from the fact that that’s not anti-Semitism. When you put a swastika on someone’s car, that’s still anti-Semitism. It’s still racism. And it’s still really messed up.”

Mizes also noted that even in a relatively safe community like Davis, the incident reminds residents that hate crimes still occur and prejudices are still held.

“This incident really goes to illuminate the fact that in a predominantly white and upper-class community like Davis is, anti-Semitism still exists here,” Mizes said.

Carmichael emphasizes that discouraging current and future crimes depends on the Davis community reporting suspicious activity for criminals to be held accountable. The UC Davis Police offers anonymous reporting through the crime bulletin on the anonymous tip line, for those who want to protect their identity.  The UC Davis Police Department smartphone application offers an alternative option to provide anonymous tips to the Police Department.

“With any crime, if students see something, they need to say something. If something seems odd, […] it’s really important for us that students call. We have to stick together as a community,” Carmichael said. “We don’t call the police because somebody is dressed a certain way [or] is of a different race; we call because of a person’s behavior. So if a person’s behavior seems odd, suspicious in any way, […] call us. This is our community. It is important for students to look out for each other.”

As a resident of the Colleges, fourth-year communication and sociology double major Kaye Marquez felt shocked by the extent of the damage of the hate crime; however, she does not let that change her pride in the Davis community.

“It’s just something I wouldn’t expect in a town like Davis because I think so highly of Davis and the people that are in it, ” Marquez said. “It was very surprising to me […] but I definitely wouldn’t use that to describe the Davis community. I don’t let that change what I think of Davis.”