'Frankly horrifying': Edmonton hate crimes unit investigates swath of graffiti swastikas

A string of swastika graffiti was found in a west Edmonton neighbourhood, including on the grounds of the local Hebrew school.

City councillor applauds residents who swiftly tackled cleanup of racist and homophobic tags

One couple spotted the graffiti on the bus stop near Gariepy Park in west Edmonton Thursday evening. (Supplied)

A string of swastika graffiti was found in a west Edmonton neighbourhood, including on the grounds of the local Hebrew school.

A swastika was found on the basketball court outside Talmud Torah School, Edmonton Public Schools confirmed Friday night. The school offers Hebrew bilingual instruction with an emphasis on Judaic studies.

"It's both disturbing and distasteful," said district spokesperson Carrie Rosa.

Officers found multiple swastikas around the Callingwood South and Gariepy neighbourhoods, including a bus stop, three on a single residential driveway and another on a residential fence.

Police said they believe the graffiti was painted early Thursday morning. The investigation is being conducted in consultation with the hate crimes unit. 

Coun. Sarah Hamilton said she was notified at around 6 p.m. Thursday night when she received a photo of a swastika and a racist slur graffitied on the bus shelter near Gariepy Park, 17404 57 Ave.

When Hamilton went to look for herself, she also found more swastikas and homophobic slurs painted on equipment around the park and on the Lessard Community League building.

"It was shocking to me and frankly horrifying, and it was horrifying to other people in the community," she said. "I think we have to be vigilant that, when we see this happen, it gets treated quickly and seriously."

One couple in the area spotted the defaced bus stop during a walk on Thursday evening and reported it to 311. When the city said it would be another three days for crews to clean it up, the residents painted it over.

Hamilton said residents had done the same with several other hateful tags around the neighbourhood.

"People in this community said, 'not in my backyard, this doesn't happen here,'" she said. "Just as disturbing as it is for an incident like this to happen, I think it's reassuring to see a community say, 'not today.'"

Hamilton noted that the defaced bus stop would service Heritage Days, a festival meant to celebrate the city's multiculturalism. She said the hateful message painted there was "antithetical" to the festival.

The neighbourhood is also home to a significant part of the Edmonton's Jewish community.

The Beth Israel Synagogue is just northeast of the school and is the oldest congregation in the city, dating back to 1912. The Chabad Lubavitch of Edmonton is also located just blocks away from the graffiti.

No graffiti was reported at either of the synagogues.

A swastika sprayed onto a park garbage container in west Edmonton. (Sarah Hamilton / Supplied)
Residents covered up some of the hateful graffiti painted onto a park building. (Sarah Hamilton / Supplied)

With files from Stephanie Dubois