CRIME
02/20/2017 08:06 pm ET Updated Feb 21, 2017

Vandals Cause Extensive Damage At Jewish Cemetery In St. Louis

It's the latest in a string of anti-Semitic incidents this year.

Vandals in the St. Louis area have caused extensive damage to a Jewish cemetery in University City.

Numerous headstones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery were toppled this weekend, among other damage, police said. Cemetery employees discovered the damage Monday morning. 

Fox2 St. Louis reporter Andy Banker said he counted at least 100 toppled headstones when he walked through the cemetery, which was established by a group of Jewish immigrants from Russia in 1893.

”Numerous plots were damaged and [headstones were] pushed over,” Lt. Fredrick Lemons of the University City Police Department told The Huffington Post. 

Lemons declined to comment on the possibility of the vandalism being classified as a hate crime. “Right now, everything is under investigation,” Lemons said. “We’re looking into all possible leads.”

Police say they’re reviewing security camera footage from the cemetery and surrounding businesses.

The damage is the latest in a string of anti-Semitic incidents that have occurred nationally since Donald Trump began his campaign. On Monday alone, 11 Jewish community centers across the country received threatening phone calls and bomb threats, forcing closures and evacuations. Since the beginning of the year, there have been such 67 incidents in 27 states and one Canadian province, according to Marla Cohen, communications manager for the Jewish Community Center Association. 

As HuffPost’s Matt Ferner reported Monday

The far-right has become emboldened under Trump, and while the number of Americans who directly support hardened hate groups remains far lower than in earlier decades, the number of hate groups in America is rising, according to a recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate and extremism around the nation.

Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at SPLC, said that this series of bomb threats since the new year is “unprecedented.”

“I’ve been working at SPLC since 1999. I’ve never seen a string of attacks like this that are targeting the same kind of institution in the same kind of way. This is new,” Beirich said. 

Trump has mostly shrugged off questions about anti-Semitism. He ignored a question about it last week during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussing his margin of victory in the election instead, and cut off a Jewish journalist in a press conference the next day before he could ask a question about the issue.

In a statement to NBC’s Peter Alexander on Monday, the White House press secretary said the threats made against Jewish community centers were “unacceptable,” but made no reference to anti-Semitism.

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