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Swastikas found at Union Station; suspect may have ‘mental health challenges,’ police say

Union Station in D.C. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg News)
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Authorities said they were investigating after swastikas were found scrawled on columns at Union Station on Friday.

Images of the swastikas that were circulated on social media showed the symbols on areas of the building’s facade.

D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III said Amtrak Police are leading the investigation into the swastikas and D.C. police are assisting. He said authorities think the person who defaced the building may be a homeless person and “could very well have some mental health challenges.”

Contee also said D.C. police have been in touch with the District’s Jewish community.

“I’m confident that Amtrak will bring this case to closure,” he said. “We want to be swift; we want to be accurate in making sure we identify the person responsible.”

In an email, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said that property damage was reported at Union Station and that the agency was working to learn more.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington said on Twitter that the symbols — found the day after people around the world observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau — were disturbing.

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“This antisemitic and hateful symbol has no place in our society, and to find it in our city the week of International Holocaust Remembrance Day is particularly offensive,” the tweet said.

In an interview, Gil Preuss, chief executive of the Jewish Federation, said antisemitism is on the rise, as evidenced by this month’s terrorist attack on a Texas synagogue.

“It is shocking that in the United States in this day and age that these things still happen,” he said. “It’s only by coming together and for all people to condemn hatred and antisemitism that we will be able to stop these acts.”

In a statement, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) called the swastikas a “disturbing sight.”

“Union Station currently has a team of experts working diligently to remove the graffiti from the historic granite,” the statement said. "This antisemitic and hateful symbol has no place in our city, and we stand united with the members of our Jewish community against anti-Semitism in all its forms.”