ROCK

A Spanish Civil War memorial at James Madison Park, feet away from the Gates of Heaven synagogue, had been cleaned by mid-morning Wednesday.

PHOTO BY MICHELLE STOCKER

Nazi graffiti in a downtown Madison park within a stone's throw of the Gates of Heaven synagogue have struck a nerve as the incident went viral on social media Wednesday morning.

The graffiti, spray painted onto the Spanish Civil War marker at James Madison Park, read “Trump Rules,” and "Antifa Sucks,” and was accompanied by two swastikas. The monument commemorates the Wisconsin volunteers who fought against fascism during the Spanish Civil War.

Photos of the graffiti posted to Facebook Wednesday were met with reactions like “beyond horrifying,” "vile," “sick" and “heartbreaking."

“That kind of vandalism, that kind of bigotry that we’re experiencing is obviously something repugnant to 99 percent of the people in our community,” said Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.

A rally in response to the incident has already been scheduled.

A group calling itself the Madison IWW General Defense Committee Local 100 has planned a “Rally against Nazis in Madison and for international socialism” for Saturday, from noon until 2 p.m., at James Madison Park.

The graffiti, painted in red and appearing on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, sparked a viral response on social media, where pictures of the defaced stone monument were shared.

"It is especially sad for us in the Jewish community to deal with this incident as we look forward to welcoming our New Year, 5778, this evening," said Paula Winnig, executive director Madison Jewish Federation, in a statement.

Madison Police Department spokesman Joel DeSpain said police were called when a passerby noticed the graffiti at about 8:30 a.m. City parks staff removed the paint by 10:15, according to a spokeswoman. 

Soglin, who is Jewish, said he hoped the perpetrators will come forward.

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“I’m more interested in educating them at this point than legal action,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re always going to find bigotry.”

The rise of Donald Trump to the presidency has sparked an increase in incidents of politically inspired graffiti nationwide, with themes that are anti-Trump, pro-Trump, Nazi, white supremacist and otherwise racist.

And Madison has not been immune.

Last year a Madison man was arrested for tagging several buildings downtown and near the UW campus with white supremacist symbols. The buildings included the Jewish Experience of Madison and the Kappa Alpha Sorority, which has many Jewish members. Both buildings are located on Langdon Street in an area known as Greek Row.

Several racially charged incidents were reported at the UW campus last year as well.

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.