March against symbol of hate is strong stand

A swastika was burned into the grass in Heritage Park. A march takes place on Saturday to denounce this symbol and the hate it represents.

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It is not known, and it might never be known, whether the swastika burned into the grass at Downtown's Heritage Park was an act of hate as well as vandalism and stupidity.

It doesn't matter. The swastika - used by Nazis in Germany under Hitler's rule by terror - remains a powerful symbol used to intimidate and create fear. It's particularly concerning to Jewish people as Jews were persecuted and killed by Nazis before and during World War II.

Given that, we applaud those who are now taking a strong and vocal stand against this symbol of hate. This anti-Semitic message simply cannot be tolerated.

In addition to the swastika there have been other instances of vandalism over the past four months that appear to be directed at Jews.

Noah Leavitt, president of Congregation Beth Israel, is concerned - as he should be.

It may be simply random acts of vandalism or it could be signs of a growing problem. Even if the miscreants burned the swastika into the grass out of ignorance rather than hate, it is still very wrong. And those who saw the swastika must know that this community will not stand for such displays or other acts of vandalism.

"I think people in town need to say, ‘We're not a place where we want swastikas,'" Leavitt said. "When something happens in a space that is about us being a mixed bag of folks able to live together with some sort of civility, it's wrong."

Some in the community are answering Leavitt's call. A march - "Community march against hate" - is planned for 3 p.m. Saturday. The march will begin at the Reid Campus Center, Park Street and Boyer Avenue, on the Whitman College campus. Marchers will then travel down Boyer and then Main Street to Heritage Park where religious leaders and public officials will make remarks.

"We are gathering as members of diverse congregations and neighborhoods to say together that one swastiska is one too many in Walla Walla," organizers said in a news release on the event. "There is no place for hatred in our Valley. No one should feel fear because of their religion, ethnicity, race or other aspect of their identity. Together we make up a rich and diverse community."

Exactly.

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