The Lewiston Police Department (LPD) has referred graffiti written in chalk on the campus of Bates College to the Maine attorney general, who is investigating the case as a possible hate crime. The Bates Leftist Coalition (BLC) shared pictures of the graffitied phrases, “Free Palestine,” “Stop Ethnic Cleansing,” “Israel is killing innocent people” and “[expletive] Zionist Israel.”
According to the Associated Press, Gwen Lexow, Bates’ director of Title IX and civil rights compliance, wrote in an email to students that said she heard members of the Bates community “expressing deep concern about the impact of the language contained in the flyers and graffiti, particularly on Jewish members of our campus community.”
Since the investigation was announced on Monday, members of the Bates community have responded to the news of the investigation.
“The college’s decision to involve the Lewiston Police Department for an ‘investigation’, especially after students have continuously expressed their discomfort with police presence on campus, is a censure of student voices,” the BLC wrote in a post on Instagram.
According to the Lewiston Sun Journal, the BLC denied involvement in the messages, but told the Sun Journal that the phrases were “not an act of anti-Semitism but of anti-colonialism.”
A group of Bowdoin students wrote a letter of solidarity with the Bates protesters.
“We are a group of proud Jewish students from Bowdoin College who stand in solidarity with the Bates students raising awareness and protesting Israel’s occupation of Palestine,” the letter, which was published and shared via social media, including the BLC Instagram, reads.
“The Bates students distributing flyers and writing chalk messages, activities which are common on college campuses, are not perpetrating hate crimes but rather peacefully protesting injustice. We affirm Bates students’ right to free speech and believe that open discourse and the right to protest is an essential part of the college experience.”