As It Happens

'We just came together': New Yorkers scrub Nazi graffiti subway with hand sanitizer

On Saturday, New York subway riders were horrified to find swastikas and anti-Semitic messages drawn in black marker on the windows and walls of the train. Guest host Helen Mann speaks with Jared Nied — one of the passengers who helped remove the hateful messages.
A passenger on a New York subway train removes anti-Semitic graffiti with a tissue and hand sanitizer. (Gregory Locke)

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"Nazi symbolism. On a public train. In New York City. In 2017."

That was what Gregory Locke wrote in a Facebook post which has since gone viral. He was referring to anti-Semitic graffiti drawn in black marker on a New York City subway train on Saturday night.

Jared Nied was on that same train, on his way home from work, when he saw the graffiti.
Jared Nied is a sous chef at Cherche Midi Bowery in New York City. He was one of many commuters who wiped away racist graffiti scrawled across a subway train.

"The entire train was completely covered," Nied tells As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. "There were swastikas on all the windows, horrible slurs on the maps, on the ads, on the posters — everywhere."

Nied says he could feel the tension on the train as other passengers glanced at the slurs and shifted uncomfortably in their seats. He noticed a woman sitting across from him was already trying to erase some of the offensive words with a tissue.

"She said, 'Isn't it awful? Do you think there's some way you could erase it?'" Nied recalls.
Nied is a sous chef at a Manhattan restaurant. He often uses dry erase and permanent markers at work and knew they would need more than a tissue.

"I'm a pretty old hat at taking permanent marker off," Nied explains. "That's when I realized that hand sanitizer has alcohol in it which should work fantastically. I asked, 'Does anyone have a bottle of hand sanitizer?'"

A number of passengers offered up bottles of sanitizer and Nied got to work.

"I just took the closest one, soaked the tissue and the graffiti came right off," Nied explains. "As soon as the other people on the car saw that, three or four of them jumped up and started collecting tissues and hand sanitizer. We just went from one end of the car to the other and cleaned off all of it — every inch of that horrible graffiti."
After they scrubbed the car clean Nied says the mood changed in the car.

"We all just went back to our seats, sat down, and sort of looked at each other and gave a collective, contented little sigh," Nied recalls. "We just came together for that one amazing moment and then went on with our day."

Nied says the memorable ride was a good reminder of the power of people working together.

"If we all come together we can overcome anything," Nied explains. "I think one of the great things about this episode is that it shows that you don't even need concrete plans or tonnes of resources. We completely erased an entire subway car full of hatred with a couple of tissues and some rubbing alcohol."

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