F-Word: Hate Speech at Homeland Security

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Hate Speech Scrawled on Plaque at African Burial Ground National Monument 


Someone scrawled “KILL N------” on the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York this week, thirty five feet from the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE and the FBI.

The racist graffiti showed up shortly before noon, Thursday, on the burial ground of 15,000 free and enslaved Africans.

The burial ground sits directly across from 26 Federal Plaza, a block away from the federal court house and a stone’s throw from City Hall. The street is closed to traffic by checkpoints and crash barriers and patrolled around the clock by federal police, as well as the NYPD, the Parks Department and private guards.

A bare expanse of grass with just a few explanatory signs, the Burial Ground attracts passers-by and Thursday was a glorious day.

Which is to say, someone, most likely in broad daylight, beneath half a dozen surveillance cameras, felt confident enough to write KIlLL N------- perfectly clearly on what has got to be one of the most highly policed blocks in the world.


Will we ever know? A picture of the defaced plaque was sent to the Public Advocate’s office and to a City Councillor. A call was made to the Hate Crimes Task Force, which transferred the caller to the NYPD. The federal police are aware of the situation, I was told.

One of three cameras surrounding the area where the slur was written.


Still, as far as I know, only one photograph exists that is not in official hands. The marker was almost immediately cleaned. It’s protocol, I was told by the Parks Department. But no story has yet appeared. Is it protocol to make anti-black hate disappear?

This very week, researchers at the Brennan Center released a paper on the government’s approach to hate crimes. As many 250,000 take place every year they report, but only a few dozen are ever prosecuted. The discounting of cases helps quiet concern about domestic terror even as the clamour and funds for fighting international terrorism grow by the hour.

And that’s what it felt like to watch that hateful scrawl disappear. Semi-instantly, the evidence was gone. The Feds have the tape. We saw something. We said something. What now?

(Update: the New York Times added news of this defacing to a story about slurs scrawled on the Union Temple, but they used a stock photo, and did not convey the surveillance aspect. A suspect’s been apprehended in that case, what about this one?)

Find more pictures here. And check out our show from Virginia's 9th District -- a progressive candidate running on a platform of "bottom up economics," without partisanship.

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