Anti-Semitic graffiti rattles S.F. artists complex

Residents of Project Artaud, a live-work complex in San Francisco’s Mission District, awoke the morning of Feb. 12 to find extensive anti-Semitic graffiti on the sidewalk in front of their building.

D.F. Golob, one of the residents who first discovered the vandalism, said she was “deeply troubled” by what she saw: multiple swastikas, “RIP Adolf Hitler” and, a few days later, the words “Death to Jews” written in French in a different location across street.

The graffiti was seen in several spots on 17th, Alabama and Mariposa streets.

Graffiti on a San Francisco sidewalk last week photo/d.f golob

“It’s more than just graffiti, it’s a hate crime,” said Golob, adding that she has lived in the Bay Area for nearly 30 years and at 499 Alabama St. since 2003, and “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Traveling Jewish Theatre, later called the Jewish Theatre San Francisco before its demise last year, used to be located at 470 Florida St., a close neighbor of the Project Artaud building. Golob and other residents thought there might be some connection between the theater’s marquee and signs — several of which are still up — and the area the tagger chose for the graffiti.

She and other residents reported the vandalism to the San Francisco Police Department and a few days later to the San Francisco office of the Anti-Defamation League. Nancy Appel, the ADL’s associate regional director, helped bring the case to the SFPD’s hate crimes division.

“It’s not a very frequent occurrence, but we do hear about things like this from time to time [in San Francisco],” Appel said. “Often a street sign is defaced, or there will be graffiti at a park … What makes this incident notable to me is the degree of detail, the extent of it. It’s not just a single swastika.”

Appel said it was impossible to speculate about a possible connection to the Jewish theater. But “it was definitely more than your average swastika, and one does have to wonder why” it was in that location.

Appel said it’s important for residents to know that if they see similar vandalism, they should call the police to file a report before cleaning it up. (Golob took photos of some of the graffiti, then attempted to clean some of it up because, she said, “I didn’t want anyone else to have to look at it.”)

Project Artaud houses three theaters and is home to more than 80 painters, sculptors, designers, photographers, writers and performance artists.

Appel said the SFPD’s hate crimes division has been “very responsive” thus far, though they had no leads that she was aware of. “Obviously it’s very difficult to apprehend people who do these sorts of things, but even if you have no leads, it’s important to the community that the city acknowledges that this is not just graffiti. It’s a terroristic message to the community.”

Golob echoed that statement. “Even though we were all appalled that, in this city that’s so liberal, this kind of thing would even show up, the end result is that I feel like there are people who take this kind of discrimination and racism very seriously,” she said. “That gives me some hope for the future.”

Emma Silvers

Emma Silvers is a former J. staff writer.