Lawrence and county officials: No tolerance to hate crime

Hate has no home in Lawrence Township, and anti-Semitic acts will not be tolerated.

That’s the message from Mercer County and Lawrence Township officials, following an act of vandalism at the Mercer County-owned Mercer Meadows Pole Farm park.

A short walk from the Keefe Road entrance to the park, carved onto slabs of granite on the ground is a list of cities around the world that received radio communications from AT&T’s now-defunct international short-wave radio transmission facility on what is now park property.

One of those cities is Tel Aviv, Israel – and it is the only one that was deeply scratched and damaged so that it is unreadable. The other cities carved onto the granite slabs – Ankara, Buenos Aries and London, among them – were not damaged.

Besides scratching out “Tel Aviv,” the vandals drew a swastika on top of the scratched-out city. The swastika has been removed, and the Lawrence Township Police Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime.

The Mercer County Park Commission was alerted to the vandalism and defacement over the past weekend of Sept. 14-15, and it was cleaned up on Sept. 16, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes said.

“It is deeply disappointing that someone would issue a message of hate in our county park, or anywhere for that matter. Hateful speech is any form is intolerable,” Hughes said.

“The Mercer County community is racially and religiously diverse. We believe the best way to combat ignorance is through awareness and discussion, and we encourage everyone to get to know your neighbors,” Hughes said.

Mayor Christopher Bobbitt said he was shocked and upset that the vandalism occurred, but he said he was not surprised “in this day and age.”

“I know it’s painful and disappointing to see that at Mercer Meadows Pole Farm park. This is where so many residents go to get away from life’s trials and tribulations,” Mayor Bobbitt said.

“I know this isn’t who Lawrence Township is. One of the reasons my family moved here is because it is a diverse, welcoming community,” Mayor Bobbitt said.

Police Chief Brian Caloiaro said the Lawrence Township Police Department is working with the Mercer County park rangers to investigate the incident.

“We take all incidents of a bias nature extremely seriously. Officers from our department are given the area extra attention,” Chief Caloiaro said.