SCARBOROUGH — A red swastika painted in the driveway of a single-family home in an off-the-beaten-path subdivision sent shock-waves through the community this week.
Police said it’s unlikely the symbolic graffiti represented a hate crime. But authorities believe the homed on Jameco Mill Road was specifically targeted.
In addition to the swastika, several profanities and the word “loser” were also written on the driveway. More profanity was also drawn on one of the garage doors, and the mailbox of the home was covered with red paint.
Police said the house was actually targeted twice last weekend. It was egged on Saturday night, April 2, and the driveway and garage door tagging occurred sometime during the overnight hours on Sunday, April 3.
Detective Sgt. Rick Rouse said authorities were still investigating the incidents Tuesday.
What police knew is that at least two young males in a silver sedan were seen nearby around the time of the egging on Saturday, and that a similarly described vehicle was seen on Coulthard Farms Road, about five miles away, on Sunday night, where another house was egged.
Police did not release the names of the homeowners.
“Any personal-identifying information is confidential. We gave the street name to let people know in what area (the incident) occurred,” Rouse said.
The family did not respond to several requests for comment and no one answered the door Monday afternoon.
Rouse said that while police have not ruled out the possibility that the incident was a hate crime, which carries greater penalties, “it does not appear to be (one) at this time. (However), the home does appear to be specifically targeted. Since the case is still under investigation, we cannot say why.”
Even if the swastika painted on the driveway was not aimed at a Jewish family or a minority, the symbol itself is still “powerful, hurtful and terrible,” said Ellie Miller, executive director of the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine in Portland.
“Symbols mean things,” she added, with the swastika, in particular, most often associated with Nazi Germany and the extermination of 6 million Jews before and during World War II.
Miller said the swastika, which was included on the Nazi flag, also stands for oppression, intolerance and “reducing people to being less than (others).”
While it’s unclear why a red swastika was included along with white-painted obscenities Sunday, Miller said it’s safe to say, “it meant nothing positive.”
What is also shocking about the incident is the rarity of such symbols appearing in any community in southern Maine, where, Miller said, many people are actively “reaching out and embracing others” and working toward equality and equity.
“What’s wonderful is, generally speaking, this community is mostly accepting. But what’s very disturbing is there are people violently and forcefully (spreading) the opposite message,” she said.
She also said that even if the swastika were not aimed at a Jewish family, it’s still “scary, an invasion of personal space and horrible.”
“The swastika is also a sign of tyranny over anyone who is different, and it certainly doesn’t stand for tolerance and acceptance,” Miller added.
Gary Johnson, an associate professor of history at the University of Southern Maine, agreed. He said that even if the swastika in this case were not meant to be associated with Nazism, it’s still a “worrisome, hateful kind of symbol used for intimidation.”
In use at least 5,000 years before it was incorporated into the Nazi flag, the word swastika comes from the Sanskrit and means “good fortune” or “well-being,” according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website.
To this day, the swastika is a sacred symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, the museum website said. But after it was formally adopted as the symbol of the Nazi Party in 1920, it became associated with “the idea of a racially pure state. Despite its origins, the swastika has become so widely associated with Nazi Germany that contemporary uses frequently incite controversy.”
Profanity and a swastika were painted on the driveway of a Jameco Hill Road home in Scarborough on Sunday, April 3.