ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – St. Petersburg Police are investigating a hate crime.
Officials say they discovered the words “The Jews are guilty” surrounded by swastikas painted on The Florida Holocaust Museum early Thursday morning.READ MORE: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Received Funding For A High Visibility Enforcement Initiative
Even though the graffitied words are now painted over, the director of the museum and leaders of local jewish organizations say the message is still upsetting and won’t be tolerated.
Jake Geffon with the Progressive Jewish Coalition of the Greater St. Pete Tampa Area, says the graffiti is “Unforgivable. I don’t really have words for it.”
Yolanda Fernandez, spokesperson for the St. Petersburg Police Department says the graffiti was found around 4 a.m. Thursday morning.
“One of our officers on patrol just happened to see it written along the whole First Avenue side,” said Fernandez.
Words of hate surrounded by swastikas on one of St. Petersburg’s most treasured attractions.
“It’s disgusting,” said Fernandez.
“it was pretty nauseating. Very upsetting,” said Geffon.
Executive Director of The Florida Holocaust Museum, Elizabeth Gelman, says she’s disappointed it happened on a building that provides so much history.
“People who do this kind of graffiti in the dead of night are cowards,” said Gelman.READ MORE: Polk County School Cafeteria Worker Arrested for Murdering Boyfriend
Gelman says this hate-inspired sentence isn’t new.
“What was written on the museum, ‘The Jews are guilty’ is one of the oldest tropes that we know of that has been used to stir up anti-Jewish sentiment for a millennia so it was chilling,” said Gelman.
Steve Schwersky, with The Jewish Federation of Florida’s Gulf Coast, says he wasn’t surprised something like this happened.
“When it’s in your backyard, it not only raises the level of concern, but the level of fear in our community,” said Schwersky.
He says a Jewish-related hate crime was bound to happen especially after the nation has seen an increase in anti-Semitism following the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“If you’re against Israel or Israel’s policies or Israel’s actions, whatever they may be, people are nowadays equating that with Jews,” said Schwersky.
Gelman says she hopes the community can together to fight Jewish hate.
“By being up-standers. By calling it out. By saying that this is not to be tolerated,” said Gelman.
The Florida Holocaust Museum is now increasing its security as a result of the rising antisemitism across the country.MORE NEWS: Man Taken Into Custody After Barricading Himself Inside His Home
If you have any information on who is behind this hate crime, contact the St. Petersburg Police Department.