On Wednesday morning, residents of Norman, Okla., woke up to discover that their city had been littered with racist and anti-Semitic graffiti.
In front of a local arts center, a prominently placed sculpture of a young girl had been spray-painted to make it look like blood was pouring from the child’s head, the Oklahoman reported. The word “JEWESS” was scrawled across her forehead, and swastikas covered both her eyes. Two blocks away at an elementary school, someone had written that black boys “rape white girls,” using a racial slur. Meanwhile, at the headquarters of the Cleveland County Democratic Party, messages like “Gas the Jews” and “Hang n----- kids” were painted on windows and doors, next to swastikas and the words “Trump 2020.” A note tied to the door handle said, “White men have built this civilization. White men have been and still are the backbone.”
The collective damage horrified the community and brought one city councilwoman to tears. It also seemed to closely resemble a scene that had unfolded in Oklahoma City, about 20 miles to the north, just the week before. On the morning of March 28, Oklahoma Democratic Party and Chickasaw Nation employees showed up for work and discovered that the entrances to their respective offices were covered with Nazi symbols, homophobic slurs and messages like “White planet only,” as The Washington Post’s Reis Thebault reported.
Police now say that the vandalism spree in both cities was the work of one woman: Allison Christine Johnson, 45, who, during an interview with detectives, went on a lengthy rant about her racist beliefs and her efforts to “wake people up,” according to a police affidavit released Monday.
On Thursday, the day after the vandalism in Norman was discovered, Johnson showed up at the police department there and asked to turn herself in, according to court records obtained by KOKH. During an interview with investigators, she “described in detail committing all of the acts that had occurred in Norman and Oklahoma City,” police wrote. Detectives determined that her car, clothing and overall physical appearance all matched up with the suspect whom they had identified in surveillance footage.
Johnson “said that her intention was to scare Jewish people” and anyone who wasn’t white, the affidavit says.
In the newly released records, authorities in Norman also revealed for the first time that they had been fielding reports of “racial, religious, and ethnic threats” for four weeks. Written and spray-painted messages had been found at two churches, two public schools and two private homes, in addition to the arts center and the Democratic Party office, they wrote. Prosecutors have also said that the Junior League of Norman, a branch of the nonprofit service organization for women, was targeted.
“Every race but white will die . . . This WILL happen,” said one of the messages that police discovered, according to the affidavit.
Johnson was arrested on Thursday and booked into jail on $25,000 bond. On Monday, she was charged with felony and misdemeanor counts of malicious injury to property and misdemeanor malicious intimidation or harassment, court records show. Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn told local media outlets that prosecutors had weighed charging Johnson with making terroristic threats but ultimately decided not to because the law wouldn’t apply in her case.
“We started there when looking at the charges. We went to the statute, but the statute says ‘committing acts of violence to intimidate a civilian population,’ and she did not really commit an act of violence to intimidate the population,” Mashburn told the Norman Transcript. “Absolutely hate speech, absolutely a crime, but not necessarily a terroristic threat.”
Mashburn also said that Johnson most likely will need to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. She is expected to face additional charges in Oklahoma County, where Oklahoma City is located, for the alleged vandalism. She has not acquired an attorney or entered a plea, according to the paper.
Local media outlets reported that Johnson seemed confused during a court hearing on Monday and had to be warned not to incriminate herself. After asking the judge to explain all the charges against her, she was told that she was being charged with one count of malicious intimidation after allegedly defacing the driveway of a home that belonged to two Native American men and targeting them based on their heritage. “That’s just crazy,” Johnson replied, according to the Oklahoman. “I just put a ... swastika ... ”
Very little is known about Johnson, who attended the University of Central Oklahoma on and off for more than a decade before graduating with an English degree in the summer of 2006, according to the Transcript. Online court records indicate she has no prior criminal convictions in Oklahoma. Those records also show that a woman named Allison Johnson who lives in Cleveland County has faced legal action over unpaid rent, credit card bills and debts owed to an Oklahoma City-based credit union, with the first instance dating back to 2006.
A neighbor who asked to remain anonymous told the Oklahoman on Saturday that Johnson “has had a tough last few years,” and expressed shock and disbelief about the alleged vandalism.
According to the Transcript, Johnson switched her political affiliation to the Republican Party in July 2018, after initially registering to vote as a Democrat.
The graffiti was widely condemned by politicians from both parties, and in Norman it disappeared within hours after volunteers showed up with bleach, scrubbing brushes and Pine-Sol. Richard McKown, a Norman-based artist who created the sculpture that was vandalized with swastikas, told the Oklahoman on Saturday that his priority had been making sure that the culprit didn’t use his art “to spread these hateful ideas.”
“In a certain sense you have to look at this and say, ‘Okay, there’s an opportunity for some dialogue here,’” he said. “We’re in this horrible time when everybody feels empowered to say the most horrible things and it’s really destructive and it really doesn’t matter if you’re liberal or conservative. I see people misbehaving in ways that are heartbreaking.”
More from Morning Mix: